12:45 GMT23 January 2021
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    A Chinese company has denied using forced prison labor to manufacture Christmas cards for British supermarket Tesco after a six-year-old girl in England found a note in one of the cards allegedly written by a Chinese inmate looking for help.

    According to reports, Florence Widdicombe purchased a Christmas card from Tesco that read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.” 

    The card was manufactured by the Zhejiang Yunguang printing factory, which is located about 60 miles from the Qingpu prison in Shanghai, China. Following Widdicombe’s discovery, Tesco removed all of the Christmas cards made by Zhejiang Yunguang.

    “We abhor the use of prison labor and would never allow it in our supply chain,” the company said in a statement obtained by the New York Times. “We were shocked by these allegations and immediately suspended the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation.”

    Chinese officials and representatives for the Zhejiang Yunguang printing factory firmly denied claims that the card was manufactured by prisoners, slamming foreign media outlets for making such claims without concrete evidence. 

    “I can tell you responsibly that after seeking clarification from relevant departments, Shanghai Qingpu prison does not at all have … forced labour by foreign convicts,” Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, recently said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

    In addition, Zhejiang Yunguang told Chinese outlet the Global Times that it was not connected at all connected to the prison.

    “We only became aware of this when some foreign media contacted us. We have never done such a thing,” Zhejiang Yunguang Printing added in its statement to the Times. “Why did they include our company's name? Do they have any evidence that we have been working with any prison?”

    In its statement, the company also suggested that the allegations may be politically motivated.

    "Are they trying to stir up a political thing? Are they trying to challenge our country's human rights?" the company said. According to the Human Rights Watch, China engages in multiple human rights violations. It has received backlash for its abuses of around 13 million Turkic Muslims, including Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs, in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.  Most recently, the matter made headlines after Arsenal football player Mesut Özil criticized China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim community.


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