Swiss Newspaper Tribune de Genève: Victims Testify of Economic Slavery in Chinese Labor Camps
April 8, 2004
[note: translated from French]
Would the world's factories employ millions of slaves? "In China, a thousand grim-looking forced labor camps produce, at unbeatable prices, goods that flood our markets: wigs, jewels, toys, balls, clothes. The Chinese economy, on the way to world domination, threatens our businesses and our jobs. It is based on unacceptable working conditions, massive violations of human rights and of ILO conventions. It is shameless dumping", says the action group for true democracy in China, which has just been created in Geneva.
This action group was initiated by Régis de Battista, Director of Geneva's "Maisons des Associations" and President of the Committee of Support to the Tibetan People. He brings together NGOs, human rights groups and representatives of the persecuted spiritual movement Falun Gong. His objective is also to increase awareness on the part of the authorities and Swiss businesses of the dangers of "Chinese control over the global economy" that does not bother with a code of ethics.
Relaunching Two Motions
De Battista hopes to relaunch two motions that he proposed while he was still a Socialist Member of Parliament in Geneva's Great Council. These projects ask particularly that the State Council study the consequences to the canton of "Chinese dumping", and that it not buy goods from this country for as long as China does not respect international norms in its conditions of production. "But to tackle the Chinese question is difficult because one is up against big interests", he says.
Several victims of this economic slavery have come to testify at Geneva. Zhang Cuiying, a famous painter of Australian nationality, spent eight months in a labor camp at Shenzen for practicing Falun Gong: "From 7am to 11pm I had to make electric candles that were then sold to Hong Kong. I was frequently beaten, shocked with electric batons, sexually abused by the prison guards, and locked in with criminals and the mentally ill. Millions of people undergo a similar fate in China."
Chen Ying, a student in France, was arrested for the same reason while visiting her family in Beijing. At the camp, she was making cuddly toy rabbits (for the subcontractor Beijing Mickey Toys), destined to promote Nestlé products. "Hygiene conditions were terrible; we slept, ate, worked and went to the toilet in the same place. And it is there also that baguettes are made for the restaurants." She was subjected to sleep deprivation and brainwashing. She was injected with a drug from which the left side of her body is still half paralyzed.
A Million Forced Labor Workers
More than 1,000 labor camps, inspired by the methods of the Soviet gulags and Nazi camps, would "employ" 6.8 million in detention (of whom 100,000 are Falun Gong practitioners and hundreds of thousands of other prisoners of conscience). "Impossible to know to what extent they contribute to the Chinese economic boom ... but the system is clearly conceived to provide a vast workforce free of charge" says Jang Jei Jaw, a businessman from the United States. He chairs the NGO World Organization for the Investigation of the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), a persecution responsible for at least 10,000 deaths according to Mark Palmer, former United States Ambassador in Beijing.
As the import of products from forced labor camps is prohibited in the United States, twenty loads from China have actually been seized, Jang added. According to him, the whole of the Chinese hair industry rests on prisoners' labor. The Henan Rebecca factory alone (which sells wigs at $100 each in the West) has a turnover of $60 million; the same for the sweater and cashmere pullover industry. United States trade unions are preparing a global denunciation of this "unfair competition."