A disturbing letter from a Chinese worker claiming to be held in slave-like conditions is said to have been found in KMart Halloween decorations, though the authenticity of the note has yet to be confirmed or denied.
The letter from a Chinese worker — which sounds a bit like the “message under the stamp” urban legend involving an American prisoner of war in Japan — first went public just ahead of Christmas in The Oregonian.
In the article, an American woman named Julie Keith, who is 42 and works at a local Goodwill, explains that she’d stored some unopened decorative tombstones and finally unwrapped them this year — uncovering a letter that describes horrible working conditions in China.
The Chinese worker’s letter, penned in very decent English and addressed “Sir,” reads:
“If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever … People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).”
According to the local news source, ten yuan is roughly $1.61. The letter from a Chinese worker continues:
“People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others.”
While it would be near-impossible to verify the letter’s authenticity for many reasons, Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch says:
“We’re in no position to confirm the veracity or origin of this … I think it is fair to say the conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labor camps.”
Keith says she reached out to several organizations, including Amnesty International and KMart via their Facebook page, before pleading to The Oregonian to print the chilling note. As attention finally centered on the Chinese worker letter, Sears (KMart’s parent company) said in a statement:
“Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices. Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate.”
Keith tells Yahoo!Shine that she was saddened by the lack of interest many human rights groups showed toward her frightening find, and added:
“I was so frustrated that this letter had been sitting in storage for over a year, that this person had written this plea for help and nothing had come of it … Then I was shocked. This person had probably risked their life to get this letter in this package.”
The Goodwill employee also says that after she uncovered the Chinese worker’s letter, she has started to check items she purchases to ensure they are not made in China.