News / Asia

Detained American Provides Glimpse Into Chinese Forced Labor Practices

Detained American Provides Glimpse Into Chinese Forced Labor Practicesi
X
Yang Chen
April 24, 2014 9:15 PM
An American Fulbright Scholar who was arrested in China for stealing spent eight months in a detention center assembling Christmas lights. In this report by Yang Chen and narrated by VOA's Colin Lovett, the man's story offers a glimpse into forced labor in China.
Yang Chen
An American who was arrested in China for stealing spent eight months assembling Christmas lights in a detention center.

Stuart Foster lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Life there is quiet and comfortable.

It’s hard to imagine that just months ago, he was working six days a week, more than eight hours a day, assembling Christmas lights in the Baiyun Detention Center in Guangzhou, China.

“At about 9:30 or 10 [in the morning], it varied, they would bring in work in big bags, industrial plastics bags," said Foster. "And it would be in the outer cells, the bosses would count and see how much it was, and then call for the inmates on the inside to come get their portions.”

He said the guards told him the lights are exported to the U.S. and other Western countries.

Foster was detained for stealing money from a fellow American teacher at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.  

Foster admitted the theft and returned the money. After eight months in detention, however, he was convicted and sentenced to time served. He was deported from China last December.

Foster said he was forced to work even though China claims to be closing labor camps. “Now when you look at the news, there will be reports, 'well, they are closing the reeducation through labor' or 'they are turning many of these into drug rehabilitation centers.' But where I was, if you don’t work, you were beaten. If you don’t work, they take your food. If you don’t work, you will not have your case heard. It was at every turn physical punishment if you didn’t work. If that’s not forced labor, what is?"  

His defense lawyer, Jade Wei, told VOA via Skype that the labor is part of China's legal process. “According to Chinese criminal law, physical labor is part of the efforts to rehabilitate people. As far as I know in American prisons, inmates have to work, too.”

Foster said businesses who are making millions of dollars, though, are abusing the rights of inmates. He said he also thinks American companies who import these products should be held accountable.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Stuart Foster from: Spartanburg USA
May 10, 2014 8:10 PM
All comments are welcome and appreciated! The original VOA story in Chinese gives much more detail about the "crime" and Forced Labor Camp conditions. For more information view the website www.whiteclouddetention.com. Also a National Public Radio (NPR) in-depth segment on this saga will be aired in the near future! Finally my memoirs "White Cloud Detention" will be published and released hopefully in time for Christmas while people enjoy the Christmas lights made by prisoners who are beaten and having food withheld daily so people can celebrate "Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards man!" All the best, Stuart


by: Wangchuk from: NYC
May 05, 2014 5:08 PM
While not all Chinese-made products are built w/ forced labor, many of the Chinese products sold in the USA are built w/ forced labor. Therefore, we should not buy Made in China b/c we are contributing to an illegal system of forced labor. Even those products made outside prisons are built by workers who work/live in abysmal conditions, work 80 hrs per week and get no vacation or sick leave & don't have the right to form independent labor unions. Workers in Communist China have less rights than workers in capitalist nations like USA & Europe.


by: mikee from: UK
April 25, 2014 10:56 AM
what does the thief expect , a sunshine all expenses paid holiday camp? we all have to work in this life to survive

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
May 05, 2014 5:02 PM
You're missing the point of the story. It exposes forced prison labor to make consumer goods made in China & sold in the West. That means many Xmas ornaments, toys & other things we buy that are Made in China are actually made w/ forced labor. Since there is no due process of law or rule of law in China, there is no way to know whether the prisoners are actually guilty or imprisoned for political views or tortured into confessions. Prisoners don't get a choice, they either work or starve or are beaten. Even prisoners have rights under int'l law. If you were illegally detained in China or in the UK, I think you would want your rights protected.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid