A six-year-old schoolgirl has found a desperate plea from inmates of a Chinese prison scrawled inside a card in a £1.50 pack of Tesco Christmas card.
The message, which says it is from foreign prisoners in Shanghai’s Qingpu prison, says they were forced to work ‘against our will’ and urgently calls for help from human rights organisations.
The cry for help throws a spotlight on the plight of thousands in Chinese prisons, as well as the supply chain behind Tesco’s card selection that raises £300,000 for the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.
A six-year-old schoolgirl found a desperate plea from inmates at Chinese Qingpu prison, Shanghai, inside a Tesco charity Christmas card showing a kitten in a santa hat, bottom left
The inmates had written this cry for help in the card, which was addressed to former inmate Peter Humphrey
The heartbreaking plea was found by Florence Widdicombe from Tooting, south London, when she opened the card featuring a kitten in a Santa hat.
‘We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China,’ the message reads in block capitals, reports the Sunday Times.
‘Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisations’.
The note was addressed to former inmate Peter Humphrey, who was held in the prison for two years when he upset authorities while working in Shanghai as a corporate fraud investigator.
‘My activities upset the Chinese government,’ he wrote, ‘which jailed both me and my American wife, Yu Yingzeng, on bogus charges that were never heard in court’.
The charity cards raise £300,000 for the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK
It allegedly came from Shanghai’s Qingpu prison, where a government website says inmates are forced to undertake duties including labour work and so-called education reforms. This image from the prisomn shows inmates attending a Chinese lesson in December 2006
A former inmate told Mr Humphrey, after they got in contact, that inmates have been forced to package Tesco Christmas cards, and also Tesco gift tags, for at least two years.
‘The foreign prisoners just package the cards. They pick different designs, put them into boxes, seal them and pack them into shipping containers.’
Mr Humphrey added that his contact with prisoners there had been lost after censorship had increased.
Tesco said in a statement it was ‘shocked’ by the message and said that production at the factory had been suspended pending an investigation by an expert ‘in-country team’.
‘We abhor the use of prison labour and would never allow it in our supply chain,’ they said.
The major high street retailer said it has also withdrawn cards from this factory from sale while it carries out an investigation.
When the factory was audited last month, Tesco also said it found no evidence to suggest they had broken the rule on banning the use of prison labour.
Charity Christmas cards will remain on sale at the supermarket that were supplied by different factories.
Mr Peter Humphrey was held in the prison for nine months while he was detained in China for two years. Pictured above is an inmate at the prison in December 2006
A former inmate pictured makinga sailboat model for Christmas at the Qingpu prison in December 2006. A former inmate has alleged that they have been making cards and gift tags for Tesco for two years at the prison
The prison, open since 1994, is staffed with more than 500 police officers and comprises mainly inmates that have been given fixed term sentences of at least seven years, according to a Chinese government website.
Prisoners have duties including labour work, so-called education reforms, prison management and safety measures.
The prison also aims to ‘rectify bad habits’ and ‘cultivating consciousness in laws and regulations’.
MailOnline has contacted the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK for comment.