Cry For Help Found in Saks Bag


What would you do if after a shopping trip at your favorite store, you open your bag to not only find the bag you’ve been after for months, but a letter from a laborer forced to work in a Chinese prison factory? This was one New Yorkers experience. As Stephanie Wilson reached in her bag from Saks Fifth Avenue for her receipt, she not only found her receipt, but a letter that pleaded, Help! Help! Help! The letter dated June 15, 2012 read, “We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory.” The writer identified as Tohnain Emmanuel Njong continues to ask the reader to help him get in contact with the Human Rights Department, and signs his letter, “Thanks and sorry to bother you.”

A similar letter was uncovered in October of 2012 that was tucked inside a Halloween decoration that was sold at Kmart. The letter described in detail the gruesome treatment occurring inside a Chinese prison.

According to the Huffington Post, the man who wrote the letter Wilson found in her shopping bag was located. In a phone interview, he confirmed obscure details contained in the letter and described his time spent in prison. He told reporters that he was held in a detention center for 10 months with no outside contact for a fraud charge he claimed to have never committed. During this time, he awaited representation from a government sponsored lawyer.

Njong says he was forced to work long days in the factory, often from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. Duties included: making paper bags, assembling electronics, and sewing garments.

He was released from prison in December of 2013 on good behavior. He was then reunited with his family and friends who had no idea what happened to him and believed that he was dead.

Letters like the one from Njong and the one found in Kmart packaging make us conscious of the work that goes into making the products and companies we support on a regular basis. It is important that we as consumers are informed and do what we can to shed light on the human cost that goes into these products and work to end human rights violations occurring in China’s labor camps.

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