Thursday, December 27, 2012

Plea for Help: US Woman Finds Letter Asking for Help from Chinese Labor Camp

An Oregon woman found more than she bargained for when she purchased a cheap set of styrofoam headstone Halloween decorations on clearance from her neighborhood K-Mart: a letter begging for help from someone at a forced Chinese labor camp!

42-year-old mother Julie Keith of Portland, Oregon, was shocked when she discovered the handwritten letter hidden between the two novelty headstones she had purchased in October for Halloween. The earnest letter starts out by stating "Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization...Thousands people here who are under the persicution [SIC] of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever." The anonymous author goes on to say that if the workers do not comply or meet their quotas, they suffer from "torture, beatings and rude comments."

The letter, written in broken English with Chinese lettering, goes on to say that the Halloween decoration was made at the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, China, where laborers are forced to work 15 hour days without time off for weekends or holidays and are only payed 10 yuan a month, which is the equivalent of $1.60US. 

Keith, who is a charity worker for a Goodwill store in Portland, was unsure of what to do with the letter at first. She posted a photograph of the plea on her Facebook page, which immediately began to draw comments from friends, family and acquaintances with advice on what to do. She showed the letter to a Chinese national friend who works at the Goodwill store and was told the letter appeared authentic. 

The China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, told newspaper The Oregonian that the origin or authenticity of the letter couldn't be confirmed. "We're in no position to confirm the veracity or origin of this,' she said. 'I think it is fair to say the conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labor camps."

"I fully believe it is real," Keith told local reporters. She had originally purchased the novelty headstone in 2011, but did not open the box until this year, while preparing for a pre-Halloween birthday party for her five-year-old daughter. 

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