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.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 50 min 21 sec ago

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.