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Scrawled in Girl's Christmas Card: 'Please Help Us'

Tesco is 'shocked' by apparent forced labor in Chinese prison
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2019 5:30 PM CST
Updated Dec 23, 2019 2:03 AM CST
Scrawled in Girl's Christmas Card: 'Please Help Us'
Florence Widdicombe, 6, poses with a Tesco Christmas card from the same pack as a card she found containing a message from a Chinese prisoner, in London, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019.   (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

(Newser) – The UK-based grocery chain Tesco said it halted production at a factory in China on Sunday after a British newspaper reported the factory used forced labor to produce charity Christmas cards for the supermarket, the AP reports. Tesco said it also launched an investigation of the Chinese supplier it hired to make the holiday cards, Zheijiang Yunguang Printing, after the Sunday Times raised questions about the factory's labor practices. The newspaper said the potentially problematic provenance of the cards came to light when a 6-year-old girl in south London found a card in her box already had a message written inside. It read: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization."

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The writer asked whoever received the note to contact Peter Humphrey, a former British journalist who was detained in China while working as a corporate investigator and spent time at the same Shanghai prison. The London girl's father, Ben Widdicombe, said Sunday they at first thought the message was a prank. "On reflection, we realized it was actually potentially quite a serious thing," he said. So he passed it on to Humphrey, who told the BBC he thinks he knows who wrote the message. He said he won't identify the person for fear the inmate would face retribution. Humphrey said he was "pretty sure" it was put inside the card by a group of prisoners as a collective request for help. Tesco said it was "shocked" by the discovery and would never allow prison labor in its supply chain.

(Read more China stories.)

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