Among those goods shelved in retail stores across the country marked Made in China some have been produced within China's huge re-education through labour camp system.
It is estimated that somewhere between four to six million, a population perhaps nearly as large as Australia's entire work force, are held in these camps, which in Chinese are known as Laogai.
The consumer goods made in these camps make their way to overseas markets. It is reported that over 200 different products made in Laogai are exported.
|(China Photos/Getty Images)|
While playing an important part in China's economy, this unpaid slave labour is one tool that has been used by the Communist regime to maintain control over the Chinese population for decades. It is a system designed to stamp out those who have differing political, social or religious view to that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). These camps aim to crush inmates physically, mentally and spiritually.
Those incarcerated in these labour camps are made up of two groups of people, criminals and the largest group of inmates, which are dissidents, such as members of underground Christian churches, Falun Gong practitioners and democracy or free speech advocates.
According to Amnesty International, those Chinese who are receiving terms in labour camps are denied access to a lawyer and have no court hearing. "Sentencing" is usually decided by the Chinese police alone. Chinese people can be retained in a labour camp for up to four years and are at high risk of being beaten or tortured, particularly if they refuse to recant their "crimes".
In a recent investigation by The World Organisation to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong evidence was found of products being made under contract in Chinese labour camps for Lanzhou Zhenglin Nongken Food Ltd., Jin Printing Co. Ltd., Qiqihaer Siyou Chemical Industry Co. Ltd and Beijing Mickey Toys Co. Ltd which makes soft toys that are being exported to the USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Hungary and Japan.
Other products that were reported as being made in labour camps were rubber balls for a well known sports label. Knitted sweaters, cushions, plastic syringes, sanitised chopsticks, posters and printed packaging were also some common commodities made in various camps.
Poisonous gardening products such as pesticides and herbicides were also a concerning product reported to be packaged by prisoners. No safety precautions, safety clothing, or eyeglasses are provided when inmates come into direct contact with these substances, leading to poisoning and severe skin irritations.
Former labour camp inmate Jennifer Zheng, in her book Witness to History, gave detailed descriptions about the abuses and atrocities that occurred in a Laogai in Beijing.
"We were made to work seven days a week, from 5:30 in the morning to 1 or 2 am. If there were quotas to fill, we would work for days without sleep," she wrote. Ms Zheng said that some of the toys she was forced to make were for Nestle.
During her imprisonment Ms Zheng was shocked with an electric baton until she lost consciousness. She was also deprived of sleep in an attempt to re-educate her, to force her to renounce her belief in the spiritual practise of Falun Gong.
Ms Zheng is one of tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners who have been sent to Laogais. Among the near 3000 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China during this persecution it is believed that most of these have occurred within Laogais.
While this pool of cheap labour enhances China's economy, this approach taken by the CCP is similar to the way the Nazis use of concentration camps and the Soviets use of Gulags. This free labour en masse is one explanation of why goods from China are so cheap.
The question remains as we move into the New Year, can the Western world really afford this moral crisis hidden within capitalism occurring in China after we said "Never again"?
Although retailers may be assured by exporting companies that the product being sold is manufactured under humane conditions, how can we be completely assured when forced labour inside Mainland China is so widespread and continues to go for the large part unchecked?
"The outside world believes that China has changed. China's Human Rights state has improved, and everyone is so eager to do business with China without really knowing the real state of China, without knowing that so many people were tortured and murdered in the labour camps," wrote Jennifer Zheng.
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