Plea for help hidden in Christmas card
A girl aged six discovered a desperate note in her pack of Christmas cards from a Chinese prisoner forced to work against their will.
Florence Widdicombe, from London, was stunned when she opened the new box of charity cards from UK-based grocery chain Tesco. Instead of a Christmas greeting, she found the scrawled message inside.
It is believed to have been written by a foreign prisoner who was made to pack the cards in boxes at a gulag in Shanghai, The Sun reported.
The note was inside a card, which featured a cute kitten in a Santa hat on the front. It said: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation."
"When I looked at the message in the card I thought it was incredible and wondered if it was a prank," Florence's father Ben Widdicombe said.
He decided it would be "wrong not to pass it on to its intended recipient. It must have been very risky for those prisoners."
The note asked the finder to pass it to 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.
Humphrey 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.
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"They have been packing Christmas cards for Tesco, and also Tesco gift tags, for at least two years," an ex-prisoner said.
"The foreign prisoners just package the cards. They pick different designs, put them into boxes, seal them and pack them into shipping cartons."
The shocking discovery has raised worrying questions over Tesco's relationship with its Chinese suppliers and their use of forced prison labour.
The supermarket giant's charity cards will this year rake in £300,000 ($AU565,000) for the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.
"Charities exist to help people, not to put them under duress," Jeremy Lune, chief executive of Cards for Good Causes, said.
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Tesco said it was "shocked" by the discovery and would never allow prison labor in its supply chain.
It has suspended use of the factory and launched an investigation into the Chinese supplier it hired to make the holiday cards, Zheijiang Yunguang Printing.
"We abhor the use of prison labour and would never allow it in our supply chain," it said.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.