Girl finds message from 'Chinese prisoner' inside Tesco Christmas card

22 December 2019, 09:28 | Updated: 22 December 2019, 12:59

Foreign inmates at Shanghai's Qingpu Prison (File image)
Foreign inmates at Shanghai's Qingpu Prison (File image). Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

Tesco has halted production at a factory in China which is alleged to have used foreign inmates to make charity Christmas cards.

A six-year-old schoolgirl from Tooting, south London opened a box of cards to write Christmas messages to friends but found the following message: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China.

"Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation," the message added, according to The Sunday Times.

Tesco has halted card production at the factory in China
Tesco has halted card production at the factory in China. Picture: PA

Speaking today, Florence Widdicombe, six, who discovered the message said: "It was a bit funny and I felt a bit shocked"

She was writing cards to school friends last weekend when she read the note that said its author was part of a group of foreign prisoners in Shanghai who were forced to work against their will.

The cards were being sold in Tesco
The cards were being sold in Tesco. Picture: Tesco

"We didn't open them on the day that we got them, we opened them about a week ago.

"We were writing in them.

"About on my sixth or eighth card, somebody had already written in it."

Her father, Ben Widdicombe, said he felt "incredulity" and thought it was a "prank" when he read the message.

He explained: "On reflection we realised it was actually potentially quite a serious thing, so I felt very shocked, but also a responsibility to pass it on to Peter Humphrey as the author asked me to do."

A Tesco spokeswoman said the company was "shocked" and had shut down operations at the facility.

"We would never allow prison labour in our supply chain," she said.

"We were shocked by these allegations and immediately halted production at the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation.

"We have a comprehensive auditing system in place and this supplier was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest they had broken our rule banning the use of prison labour.

"If evidence is found we will permanently de-list the supplier."

Tesco donates £300,000 each year from the sale of the cards to the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.

The card with the message on it had been made at Zheijiang Yunguang Printing, where it is understood an independent audit was conducted in November which found no concerns about forced labour.

The retailer has not received any complaints from customers about messages inside cards.

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