Chances are you don't put too much thought into where your paper shopping bags come from.
But a Saks Fifth Ave. customer in New York City became all too aware of where her bag originated when she found a desperate cry for help inside of it - written by the prisoner who made it.
HELP! HELP! HELP!... I've been molested and tortured physically, mentally and spiritually for all this while without any given chance to contact my family and friends. We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory. Please help me contact the United Nations Human Rights Department...
The incident is still under investigation, but Saks Fifthe Ave. has confirmed that they do source their paper bags from China.
Tohnain Emmanuel Njong, the man who wrote the letter, has since been released from the prison. He says he wrote several letters in both French and English while behind bars in a Qingdao, Shandong Province labor camp.
We were being monitored all the time. I got under my bed cover and I wrote it so nobody could see that I was writing anything... [I thought] maybe this bag could go somewhere and they find this letter and they can let my family know or anybody [know] that I am in prison.
Prisoners in a Chinese labor camp.
And this isn't the first time a cry for help has escaped one of China's notoriously repressive "reeducation camps," where criminals and political dissidents are utilized as slave labor.
But are China's other factories - the ones ostensibly staffed by free people - really that much better? The evidence suggests that prisoner labor may be the only kind of labor Chinese factories use.A New York Times investigation into Foxconn, the factory that manufactures devices like phones and tablets for Apple and other tech giants, found unsafe and inhumane conditions.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple's products, and the company's suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports...
Workers looking out from a Foxconn dorm.
The report also revealed that companies are aware of these appalling conditions, but feel they are a necessary evil.
Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products...Executives at other corporations report similar internal pressures. This system may not be pretty, they argue, but a radical overhaul would slow innovation. Customers want amazing new electronics delivered every year.
When consumers show a willingness to reject goods created by forced labor, corporations will start looking for solutions. But as long as we keep accepting products created by factory slaves, nothing is going to change at all.
Via DNA Info