Tesco halts Christmas card factory after China inmate message

Tesco said they would permanently de-list the supplier if evidence points out that supplier uses prison labor. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 December 2019

Tesco halts Christmas card factory after China inmate message

  • Tesco said they would not allow prison labor in their supply chain
  • The note encouraged the reader to seek “Mr Peter Humphrey”

LONDON: Supermarket giant Tesco said Sunday it has stopped production at a factory in China after one of its Christmas cards was found to contain a cry for help from a prisoner who made it.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that a girl in south London had opened a card last weekend to find a message inside claiming to be from inmates at Shanghai’s Qingpu Prison.
“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China,” said the message, in a Tesco charity card featuring a kitten in a Santa hat.
“Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”
A spokeswoman for Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, said it was “shocked” at the news and had “immediately halted production at the factory where these cards are produced.”
“We would never allow prison labor in our supply chain,” she said, adding that an investigation had now been launched.
She said the company had a “comprehensive auditing system in place.”
“This supplier was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest they had broken our rule banning the use of prison labor,” she said.
“If evidence is found we will permanently de-list the supplier.”
According to the Sunday Times, the note in the card — sold to raise money for charity — asked whoever received it to contact “Mr Peter Humphrey.”
The girl’s father searched for Humphrey online and discovered that he was a former journalist who had spent nine months in Qingpu.
He got in touch with Humphrey, who contacted some other ex-prisoners, who confirmed that foreign inmates had been backing cards for Tesco.
Humphrey then wrote up the story for The Times.
Humphrey and his wife Yu Yingzeng, a naturalized US citizen, ran an investigative firm hired by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Arrested in 2013 on suspicion of illegally obtaining private data, he confessed on Chinese state TV but later claimed he was forced to.
He and his wife were convicted in August 2014 and deported the following June.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”