Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Top 5 Products Allegedly Made in Chinese Gulags

The Top 5 Products Allegedly Made in Chinese Gulags

While the Chinese government says that products made in these prisons aren't exported, many Chinese labor camps manufacture their goods under different names.



Everyone knows the old cliche about American prisoners standing on an assembly line and making license plates. And in fact millions of plates are manufactured each year by people behind bars. The ethics and economics of prison labor has been widely debated, but the reality is that incarcerated people all over the world are busy making some of our most common household goods.
Case in point: China. Earlier this week, Australia’s national airline, Qantas Airways, announced it had launched an investigation into allegations that inmates in Guangdong, a province in southern China, had manufactured its in-flight headphones. British Airways and Emirates Airways have also allegedly been sourcing their in-flight headphones from the prison camp.
But while in the U.S. it’s generally hardened criminals who process meat, build dorm room furniture and sew lingerie, in China the situation is far different. Beginning in the 1950s, the Communist Party set up controversial reform-by-labor camps, or Laogai, as a way for the government to maintain order. Since then, the labor camps have imprisoned petty thieves, prostitutes and political agitators. (China’s Ministry of Justice says 160,000 people were imprisoned in 350 camps at the end of 2008.) Those sentenced to the Laogai often never receive a trial and are often there for many years, work grueling hours, making everything from circuit boards to blue jeans. Ex-prisoners have complained of severe beatings, a paucity of food and infestation by disease carrying pests, according to Human Rights Watch. And while the Chinese government says that products made in these prisons aren’t exported, many Chinese labor camps manufacture their goods under different names. That’s led many analysts to believe that these these prison-made goods, which are illegal in the U.S., have flooded the global marketplace. Here’s a roundup of products that have allegedly been made in the Laogai:
1.) Gaming
A former inmate at the Jixi re-education camp in Heilongjiang province in northeast China said he was forced to play video games, such as World of Warcraft for hours on end as part of a money-making scam. The former prisoner, Liu Dali, told The Guardian that guards traded the credits inmates acquired for cash. “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor,” he said.
2.) Halloween Decorations
Last year, Oregon resident Julie Keith was shocked to find a handwritten plea for help, apparently from an inmate at a Chinese labor camp, hidden inside a Halloween decoration kit from Kmart. “If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” the letter said. The letter tucked deep inside the “Totally Ghoul” kit went into detail about the harsh working conditions at a labor camp in the northeastern city of Shenyang, China, a description that experts said matches the realities on the ground. Kmart said it was cooperating with international groups in examining the letter’s origin.
3.) Construction Equipment
There are several incidents of construction-related equipment made in labor camps allegedly reaching North America. In 2011, Calgary-based Inland Screw Piling Ltd. received at least two shipments of equipment used in foundation work from a Chinese prison in the southern Hunan province. The shipments were worth roughly $300,000, according to the Laogai Research Foundation. The products came from the Xinxiang Zhongke Mining Equipment Company, which has the exact same address as the prison camp.
4.) Organs
Members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong have been killed for their vital organs and prison camp detainees have been forced to donate everything from blood to spleens, according to the Washington D.C.-based Falun Gong-affiliated“Stop Organ Harvesting in China.”  The group claims that hearts and livers have been taken from prisoners and rushed for implantation to patients in the West. Late last year, Beijing attorney Han Bing posted a message on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo alleging that a Chinese prisoner was executed, but under unusual conditions. The man was allegedly killed in a clinic instead of a detention center, and his family had not been informed prior. “These unscrupulous judges and doctors are transforming a hospital into a place of execution – a marketplace for the organ trade,” Han wrote. The allegations spread like wildfire on Weibo, but the original post was deleted days later.
5.) Tea and Rubber-Vulcanizing Chemicals
A quarter of China’s tea is produced in Laogai camps; according to NGO the Laogai Research Foundation. About 60 percent of China’s rubber-vulcanizing chemicals, which are used in the chemical process to make rubber more durable, are produced in a single Laogai camp in Shenyang. Vulcanized rubber is used in produces including tires, shoe soles, hoses, and hockey pucks.