As the New Year looms, lets all ponder our priorities. Rather than feeble, half hearted promises; why not resolve to take a wider view of the world? A world crowded with mega stores, offering inexpensive goods, 24 hours a day – comes at a price. We grumble about the economy, complain about employment, whine over out sourced call centres; then flock to Wal Mart for cheap imported goods. Unfazed by recalls, faulty workmanship, lead contamination, or labour practices; we gobble up imported goods without blinking an eye. Worse still, we encourage trade to “stimulate the economy”, roll out the red carpet to foreign companies, and look the other way.
On Dec. 27 the Business Insider reported on a chilling story. A woman from Oregon discovered a letter written by a Chinese factory worker, inside a box of Halloween decorations purchased last year at Kmart.
“If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.
People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).
People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others.”
I must stress – it is alleged to have been written by a factory worker. Obviously the author must be educated as it is written almost entirely in English. The context of the letter indicates these workers are not there by choice or court sentence.
I’ve written a lot about China, and realize the situation is complicated. That said; it’s no secret certain Chinese factories had to install “suicide nets” to stop workers from jumping to their death, imported pet food sickened or killed hundreds of animals, or that thousands of products are removed from shelves each year due to lead, pesticide, or melamine contamination. Banned or restricted Chinese food products; like honey, make their way to our supermarket shelves via other countries. Laundered and relabelled, we snap them up – pleased with ourselves for being great little shoppers.
Saving a few pennies has become a fact of life for countless families; I understand that. Imported goods are inexpensive. Given the choice between providing for my family or not, obviously family trumps conscience. The disturbing fact is how the situation has taken on a life of its own. All of us feed the flames by being oblivious.
No one said life was fair. We can’t fix all the problems or change different cultures by applying our standards. What we can do is realize we have a voice. I guarantee that speaking up won’t empty mega or dollar store shelves. Waking up and saying “enough” might just put an end to the madness condoning flagrant disregard for health and human rights.
We owe it to one Chinese factory worker to at least ponder a plea for help.