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Slavery and your Holiday Shopping

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Yesterday I went Christmas shopping for nieces and nephews. After a short trip to the Namaste Fair Trade shop, I had some wonderful gifts and a good conscience, for I had supported Nepali crafts-people. And I had managed to shop on Tuesday, rather than Black Friday, officially designated by Adbusters as "Buy Nothing Day".
WFTO Fair Trade Organization Mark

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But how important is it to go to the Fair Trade store?  After all, this is America, and we have laws regulating our imports.We know they aren't made by child labour, or forced  labour. Or do we?

Recently Al Jazeera English investigative reporter Ragi Omar has been doing a series of reports on Twenty-First Century slavery. And his latest findings should send a chill down all our spines. Omar looked into the five-million strong forced labour prison camps, the Laogai, in the Peoples Republic of China. Many of these inmates are known prisoners of conscience such as Falun Gong adherents.

 Officially, the prisoners make goods only for the Chinese market, because goods made by prisoners are not officially allowed into the US. In fact, forced labour is  a key component in the cheap garments, toys and novelty items  we purchase in American chain stores and superstores. The government, corporations and consumers alike turn a blind eye
China

Image by Thuany Gabriela via Flickr

 to the tainted nature of these goods. A Falun Gong survivor spoke of beatings and torture in the forced labour camp, where he made novelty slippers for the American market, with the care instructions label in English, not Chinese. Ragi Omar's team posed as garment importers and were informed straight up that if they needed the items in a rush, five prisons would cooperate to fulfill the order!

Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos recently pointed out in a BBC interview that the war on drugs cannot be won in the coca plantations of Columbia nor by battling Mexican drug cartels. It can be won only in the US, from where the demand arises. And like US drug addicts whose appetites have indirectly led to forty thousand drug-war deaths in Mexico, we, the American consumers,  provide the demand that  perpetuates the misery of five million Chinese slaves.  The government is turning a blind eye. The corporations are complicit. But if we, the consumers, open our eyes, slavery in China will end. We have the power. Let's use it. This Christmas, this Hanukkah, don't give your child, your niece or your Auntie a tainted gift. 


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