Allegations that prison authorities are forcing prisoners to pack Quaker Oats have arisen at the same Shanghai facility where an inmate hid a plea for help in a Tesco Christmas card.
Four foreigners released from the prison in Qingpu district in past year told the U.K.’s Sunday Times they had either been forced to pack the American breakfast cereal or seen other inmates pack or sort sachets of different Quaker Oats products.
“There were two sorts of product, one with strawberry bits and one plain. Prisoners had to package 10 sachets into transparent [bags] and slide in a one-page leaflet, which was in English,” one prisoner who now lives in Britain told the paper.
He said that prisoners had been packaging the product “for much of 2018.”
Prisoners told the Times that theft of the sachets was endemic.
“The guards tried to stop it, as the inmates stole a big quantity. Some took more than they needed and sold it to others. I got a few sachets,” a former inmate from Brazil who was released in April of 2018 told the paper.
Another former prisoner said that inmates were forced to pack women’s face masks of unknown brands and make supermarket-style shopping bags.
The report come less than a month after a 6-year-old girl in London found an alleged appeal for help from a foreign inmate at the same prison in Qingpu, a suburban district of Shanghai Municipality.
“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization,” the note read.
After Tesco suspended production at the facility, the card supplier, Zhejiang Yunguang Printing, denied the allegations while the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the affair a farce.
In 2014, a woman discovered that a pair of trousers she had purchased in Primark’s Belfast store several years prior also contained a cry for help claiming that prisoners at Xiangnan jail in Hubei, China were forced to work 15 hours a day.
United Nations guidelines on prisoner treatment known as “The Nelson Mandela Rules” say that prisoners “shall not be held in slavery or servitude,” nor “be required to work for the personal or private benefit of any prison staff.”