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note from Chinese prisoner

Shopper finds ‘note from Chinese prisoner’ in handbag

‘Prisoners at Chinese prisons are living a worse life than horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs’

A woman in Arizona claims that a note found in her shopping appears to have come from a Chinese ‘prisoner’ experiencing awful working conditions.

Christel Wallace says she found the letter placed in a zipped plastic bag inside a handbag she had purchased at Walmart. Her daughter-in-law posted the note, written in Chinese characters, on Facebook, looking for help to translate. The letter details beatings and long work hours with no food or medical care. 

“Prisoners at Chinese prisons are living a worse life than horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs,” it reads. “Whoever is not able to finish will be beaten.”

As reports, the note gives details of a prison in the southern Guangxi province of Yingshan. Wallace told reporters that she had the note translated three times to be sure.

A translation of the letter says: “Inmates in the Yingshan Prison in Guangxi, China are working 14 hours daily with no break/rest at noon, continue working overtime until 12 midnight, and whoever doesn't finish his work will be beaten. Their meals are without oil and salt. Every month, the boss pays the inmate 2000 yuan, any additional dishes will be finished by the police. 

“If the inmates are sick and need medicine, the cost will be deducted from the salary.” 

A Walmart spokesman told the Arizona Daily Star: “One of our requirements for the suppliers who supply products for sale at Walmart is all work should be voluntary as indicated in our Standards for Suppliers.”

Though the Chinese prison labour system was mostly abolished in 2013, there have been several similar letters found in other stores, tracing back to China. In 2015, a shopper in Swansea and another in Belfast found labels sewn into pieces of clothing from Primark. One label read: “forced to work exhausting hours”. Primark however disputed the cry for help. A former inmate of the Masanjia prison camp in China told the New York Times that he wrote 20 SOS letters during the two years he spent in prison, with hopes they would reach American stores. He was identified as the writer of a note found in Halloween decorations from Kmart in Oregon in 2013.

Manufacturing practices across labels and high street stores have been increasingly challenged ever since the horrific Rana Plaza collapse, where 1,129 workers and residents were killed. Fashion Revolution Day is an initiative that raises awareness of malpractice and sweatshops, while encouraging dialogue for sustainable fashion.