Slavery in Modern China

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By Rick Gordon

China is one of the Worlds oldest Nations, and slavery has been part an integral aspect of its culture since the first Emperor at the very least. As a legal institution, in pre-Communist China, it was abolished in 1909, but is believed to have continued clandestinely for many decades thereafter.

In modern Communist China, it is believed that slavery is a way of life for many. As of 2016 The Global Slavery Index estimated that over 3.8 million people lived as 'slaves' in China. [1] A good portion of it is not Government sanctioned.

In 2016 the Chinese Ministry of Public Security investigated over 1,000 cases and arrested over 2,000 suspects. Some slaves were sex slaves, others were forced laborers. Non Government forced labor in China is from time to time exposed. Vietnamese workers are exploited as de facto slaves in the sugarcane industry in Southern China. They are smuggled in by Vietnamese gangs and Chinese human smuggling syndicates across Chinas southern border, in much the same fashion that Mexicans and central Americans come across America's southern border.

Slavery in China

Human smuggling syndicates in China profit by claiming much of the workers’ meager wages while also charging factory and plantation owners a fee.

The estimated 2.9 million people in modern slavery in China "includes the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage" [2]

In the summer of 2007, it became public knowledge that young people were being kidnapped and forced into slavery in kilns in China's Shanxi province. The expose was initiated by parents who banded together in search of their missing children. These families scoured the countryside and, some, but not all found their children working in the kilns. [6]

Government Sanctioned Slavery - Forced Labor

The Chinese government claims to have abolished their "Re-education through Labour" [RTL] program , or 'work will set you free" as of 2013. Under the RTL system prisoners were subjected to years of forced labor. The abolition of RTL was probably a semantic gesture because as of 2017 a report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission alleged that China still had an extensive network of state run prisons that used slave labor.




Messages From Slaves

In December 2019 a British newspaper reported that a schoolgirl in London found a message written inside a Christmas card claiming to be from inmates at Chinas Qingpu Prison in Shanghai. “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.” The card was purchased from Tesco supermarket which claims to have stopped production at that particular factory.

The Tesco fiasco is not isolated, other major retailers in the UK, US and elsewhere have dealt with similar incidents from comparable notes discovered in all types of products sold in their stores.

China denied that they have foreign prisoners “I can tell you responsibly that, after seeking clarification from relevant departments, Shanghai Qingpu prison does not at all have … forced labor by foreign convicts,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing in Beijing. [3]

A paper shopping bag from Saks Fifth Avenue contained a letter begging, "HELP HELP HELP." The message was a desperate cry from a man who claimed he made the bag while being held as a slave in a Chinese prison factory. The note was signed Tohnain Emmanuel Njong and was accompanied by a small photoraph purporting to be the man who wrote the note.

"Harry Wu, the founder of Laogai Research Foundation , spent 19 years in a Chinese prison factory, known as laogai. He said he took steps to verify the letter and believes that Njong took a huge risk in writing and sending it. "There would be solitary confinement until you confess and maybe later they increase your sentence — or even death," Wu said." [4]

In 2012, a note was foumd inside a pack of Halloween decorations bought at a Kmart in Oregon, The New York Times reported.

“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” said the note, which was tucked between two ersatz tombstones and fell out when the woman, Julie Keith, opened the box in her living room last October. “Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

Similar incidents have been reported at Walmart as well as Primark, a major retailer in the UK and Ireland and Zara, a clothing retailer in Turkey, all claiming to have been made using slave labor. So enjoy your cheap dollar store merchandise and even your 'upscale' greeting cards, handbags and clothing knowing full well that another human beings literal blood, sweat and tears helped bring it to you.








The Laogai Foundation


The Laogai system is the Chinese network of prisons, factories and farms designed to reform prisoners through forced labor. The Chinese government uses the laogai to persecute political dissidents and maintain its dictatorship.

Much of the treatment of Laogai prisoners violates Internationally accepted norms of detention.

The mission of the Laogai Research Foundation is to shine a spotlight on the brutal and exploitative prison system historically known as Laogai in the People’s Republic of China. Through the collection and dissemination of evidence confirming personal testimonies about the horrors of the Laogai system, the LRF hopes to expose and examine the Laogai prison system and thereby spur international pressure on the Chinese Communist regime to bring the Laogai and other human rights abuses to a final end. - LAOGAI RESEARCH FOUNDATION

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce

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Footnotes

1. Global Slavery Index

2. 2.9 million trapped in modern-day slavery in China

3. Christmas card 'cry for help': in the Chinese prison at the centre of forced labour claims

4. Plea for Help From Man Claiming to Be Chinese Prisoner Found in Saks Bag

5. Behind Cry for Help From China Labor Camp

6. China’s Forced Labor Problem

7. Slave Labor in China Sparks Outrage