There really is nothing new about this story . In Brushstrokes in Time my coming of age novel about a Chinese artist on the fringe of real events in China , two chapters are set in a Labour camp on the outskirts of Beijing. In the nineties prisoners at Tiantanghe Farm made Disney related trinkets and some cheap items for Wall Mart.
I have Little Winter write this to her American daughter
‘Sara, you argued with me when I didn’t want to buy Mickey toys because some well-known firms sourced their Mickey toys from Tiantanghe. How can I buy products knowing they could have been made by slave labour? Sometimes money can seem like the real god of the USA, not Jesus who renounced wealth and power. As I am writing this there is talk in China of closing the Labour Camps. On that day we can celebrate with you buying whatever you like from wherever you like.’
The issue really is not about working in prison –that can be more congenial than solitary confinement-the issue is the exploitation by Western companies and the Chinese Government. Slave Labour is being used on the Belt and Road project in Pakistan too.