People around the world often like to use colourful strings of lights to enhance the festive atmosphere when celebrating the New Year and other special occasions. However, most people are probably not aware of how these jolly items are produced: Many of them are handmade by the detainees of the Taiyuan Detention Centre in Shanxi Province, where Falun Gong practitioners and others are subjected to daily slave labour.
Along with several so-called “businessmen” from southern China, the Taiyuan Detention Centre came up with a long-term plan in early 2013: They forced all of the detainees, including imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, to produce strings of lights for export to Malaysia, Australia and other countries.
Each person's workload was increased from 100 strings per day to 600 strings a day. The assembly line consisted of numerous steps, including connecting filaments, pulling lines, inserting bulbs, making plugs, etc. With the increase in workload, the majority of detainees were not able to keep up.
All detainees at the Taiyuan Detention Centre were forced to get up at 6 a.m. and start work immediately after breakfast. Many people continued to work even while in the washroom in order to meet their daily quota.
Lunch was served at 11 a.m. Detainees continued to work while lining up for lunch. Oftentimes they didn't have time to wash their hands before eating. Some didn't have time to eat altogether, and some continued working while eating. Those who ate slowly were scolded for holding up the production line.
The detainees were not allowed to take a midday break even in hot summer. They were ordered to continue working after dinner and often had to bring their work to bed in order to meet the daily quota.
Profit Over Health
After doing this type of work for several months, the detainees' fingers became deformed and had large blisters. Their fingers and arms often cramped, and their hands were numb and painful. The pain often affected their ability to fall asleep at night.
The detainees' vision was also damaged from connecting thin filaments for long periods of time without a break. They felt weak and unwell.
Although people worked hard, most could not finish their quota. As a result, they were scolded, cursed at, insulted, forced to stand, penalized with additional work and even fined by those in charge of production. While monitoring the detainees, the guards reprimanded those whom they deemed “lazy” and constantly urged everyone to work harder to make more profit.
One had to work every minute as long as one was alive.
The detention centre thus maximized the profit by taking advantage of slave labour and sacrificing the detainees' health
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