hina’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has denied that foreign inmates at a Shanghai prison are being subjected to forced labor after a 6-year-old girl in London opened a pack of Christmas cards and found an apparent plea for help.
“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization,” one of the cards read, asking the reader to contact Peter Humphrey, a former British journalist, investigator, and inmate at the prison from 2014 to 2015.
The father of the girl then reportedly contacted Humphrey who wrote up a story on the incident for the Sunday Times. Humphrey said that he believes his former cellmates wrote the message.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang denied that there was any truth to the article, calling it nothing more than a fraudulent drama choreographed by Humphrey to gain attention for himself.
“But his latest plot sounds all too familiar,” Geng said. “My advice to him: if you want to grab more eyeballs, at least come up with some new tricks.”
“I can tell you that after verifying with relevant departments, we know for sure that there is no forced labor of foreign prisoners in Qingpu prison in Shanghai,” he concluded.
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) December 23, 2019
Humphrey was incarcerated for 23 months in China, nine of them at the Qingpu prison, on charges related to his work as a corporate fraud investigator which he said were “bogus.” He has described life in the prison as a “bleak” experience where 12 prisoners occupy each cell, sleeping on iron bunk beds.
He says the ceiling lights in the cells were never turned off and the barred windows always kept open, adding that there was no heating in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. In an interview this week, he explained that there were about 150 foreign prisoners incarcerated at Qingpu when he was there and estimates that number has now gone up to 250.
Humphrey added that he recognizes the handwriting in the letter as one of his former inmates but won’t reveal the author’s identity for fear of his safety.
The cards were produced by Zhejiang Yunguang Printing, a company located about 100 kilometers away from the prison. For its part, Tesco, the British supermarket chain where the cards were purchased, has suspended cooperation with the company and launched an investigation.