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The price of shopping at the dollar store
Zhou Yizhen from Jiayi, Taiwan
1/25/2005

[PureInsight.org] At the beginning of each year, the Jiayi City government in Taiwan hosts an international pipe music festival. It is the 13th year that Jiayi City has hosted the festival. The event was held at the Jiayi City Cultural Center. The festival featured many renowned performing groups and attracted a lot of visitors. Many vendors came to the Cultural Center to sell their goods. Everyone was feeling the holiday spirit.

“Everything 99 Cents.” The large sales sign in front of a Dollar Store attracted my attention! I thought to myself, “Taiwan is the best place to live after all. Everything is so affordable, and you can find everything you want in Taiwan.” After purchasing a few items at the Dollar store, I walked towards the Cultural Center, ready to enjoy the pipe music performance.

While everyone was having a happy New Year shopping at one side of the Cultural Center, a group of Falun Gong practitioners were spending their New Year holidays hosting a torture exhibit to reveal Jiang Zemin’s persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China, who are currently incarcerated in forced labor camps and are unable to spend their New Year with their families. The existence of the persecution shocked everyone that came to the pipe music festival. This is the first torture exhibit held at Jiayi City, Taiwan, but similar torture exhibits have been repeatedly held around the world, including the United States, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and many other countries. The torture enactments tell the appalling stories of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China and moved every audience!

One of the torture enactments had the greatest impact on me. It was the enactment of slave labor. I stood in front of an iron cage prop watching a female Falun Gong practitioner acting as an enslaved victim forced to make toys. She carried wounds and scars revealing the prison guards’ violence, and looked weary and sad. Another Falun Gong practitioner acting as a prison guard stood outside the cage prop, staring fiercely at the enslaved Falun Gong practitioner inside the cage. This torture enactment reminded me of the related news I had read before:

The prisons and forced labor camps (or gulags) in China are violating the basic human rights of the detainees by contracting with businesses and enslaving the detainees to make products without pay. The huge profits from slave labor entice the forced labor camps and the prisons in China to escalate their human rights violation against the detainees for more profits.
The European Union (EU) has repeatedly warned toy factories in China and boycotted their toys because they used toxic spray and toxic plastic materials. The EU is now actively demanding random checks on China’s toy factories. A factory in Shandong Province, China that makes Christmas stuffed toys had been shut down because it was found that it has been using known carcinogens as filling in its stuffed toys.

The cheap products made in China by its slave labor are damaging the stability of the rest of the world’s labor market and economy. Consumers around the world are lured to purchase the cheap products made in China without knowing that their purchases are enticing China to continue its slave labor.

The Chinese Communist government has a policy that encourages and entices foreign companies to do businesses with China’s prisons and forced labor camps. China’s State Revenue Bureau’s [2001] No.56 document clearly stipulates that all the businesses registered under China’s prisons and forced labor camps are exempt from business revenue taxes and land property taxes. Moreover, some economic development districts in China’s provinces and cities even feature free slave labor at the local prisons and forced labor camps in their advertisements to attract foreign investments.

There is evidence that Beijing’s Mickey (or Miqi) Toy Company Limited, Lanzhou’s Zhenlin Farming Produce Company Limited, Jinan’s Tianyi Printing Company Limited and Heilongjiang Province’s Siyou Chemical Business Company Limited in Qiqihar and many other businesses in China have business contracts with Chinese prisons, forced labor camps and detention centers, which then force incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners to provide slave labor without pay to make products and fulfill these business contracts.

According to the Epoch Times’ report on February 25, 2004, “dozens of detainees at the forced labor camp were stuffed in a small workroom, forced to make products.” “Fleas and lice are rampant in the workroom. The enslaved detainees were not disinfecteded prior to work and did not wear any disinfected work clothes. Some of them had hepatitis, different skin diseases, beriberi, and venereal disease. Some were drug addicts.” “The disposable chopsticks to be wrapped were piled on the floors. Some were under the feet of the detainees, who were made to wrap the disposable chopsticks in small paper bags with the message “Disinfected Chopsticks and Approved by the Chinese Health Bureau.”

Lanzhou City’s Zhenlin Farming Produce Company Limited works with Lanzhou City ’s Dashaping Detention Center and Lanzhou’s First Detention Center to force approximately 10,000 detainees, including incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners since July 1999, to pick out melon seeds with their hands, peel the melon seeds with their teeth and fingers, and then take out the seeds inside. As the result of the slavery, many detainees lost their teeth. Many of their teeth and fingers were injured. Many lost their fingernails. They were forced to perform more than 10 hours of slavery each day without pay. Within a few years, Zhenlin Farming Produce Company Limited became the largest dry snack supplier in China because of the salve labor. In 1999 alone, the company’s revenue reached 460 billions dollars. Its star product “Zhenlin Handpicked Melon Seeds” is sold in countries worldwide, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, South East Asia and Taiwan.

Because western democratic countries are taking a firm stand against products made by slave labor, China’s State Department was pressured in 1991 to restate its policy against exporting products made by China’s slave labor and its policy against joint ventures between China’s prisons and foreign companies. Contrary to its guarantee to the western countries, the Chinese Communist government actually has policies to encourage joint ventures between China’s prisons and foreign companies.

China’s products reach more than 70 countries and regions around the world. The handmade quilt made by “Lider Handcraft Headquarter Company Limited in Changyi, Shandong Province” reaches the markets of over 40 countries and regions. Some of them include the United States, Canda, Chili, Argentina, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. The company exports quilts each year in the value of 10 million dollars. The products made by Henan Province’s Rebecca Company Limited reach over 10 countries and regions worldwide, such as the United States, Japan, Korea, Russia, Europe and Africa. The slave labor is what gives these quilts the competitive prices and popularity in these countries. I remember that I once bought a toy at the Disneyland in the United States, but I found it was made in China when I returned home. I could not help shaking my head in disapproval.

Epilogue
Watching the torture enactment of the enslaved Falun Gong practitioners in China’s prisons and forced labor camps, I remembered the 99-cent merchandise I had just purchased from the Dollar Store. Some of them had the label that says “MADE IN CHINA.” Others do not have a label, but their incredibly low prices scream out the fact that they were also made in China. I really feel I have done a horrible thing. I feel I am assisting the tyrant with his wicked business. I only wanted to save a few bucks, but I did not see that I was encouraging China to persecute Falun Gong practitioners! Most importantly, consumers worldwide do not know they are buying products made by slave labor in China, and are unknowingly assisting China with its human rights violations. It is an act of deceit. It is a act of turning consumers who do not know anything about China’s slave labor into participants in the persecution against Falun Gong. It is an insult of consumers with good conscience.

Must we betray our principles and sell our consciences for 99 cents?

I feel terrible about what I have done at the beginning of the New Year. The music flowing from inside the Cultural Center seems to be saying that I have sold my conscience to the demon!

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