08 May 2007

"If You Could Kiss the Cheek of the Child in the Sweatshop That Made Your Shoes"

"If you could kiss the cheek of the child in the sweatshop that made your shoes...." (David Rovics)

Consider this blood-freezing extract from We Shop Until Chinese Workers Drop by Johann Hari:

Over the past decade, an old word once used in the Maoist gulags has come back to China. It is "gulaosi" - and it is used to describe the men and women who are literally being worked to death producing clothes, electronics and toys for you and me.

Wie Meiren was a standard-issue gulaosi, the kind you can find in every Chinese town. She was a 32-year-old woman with three kids who left her hungry village and travelled to Dongkeng, where she got a job assembling the toy cars for the British kids' market.

There, she was expected to work 360 days a year, from 7.30am to as late as 9.30pm, with only a half-hour break for lunch and fines for taking too long on the toilet. As in many Chinese factories, military drills were often yelled: "Long live the company!" If anybody argued back to the managers, they could be punched in the face.

One day, Meiren had a family crisis at home. She was forbidden by her bosses from going to take care of it - so she became angry and fainted. She forced herself to keep going to work for the next fortnight, but eventually she became so exhausted she collapsed - and died before she reached the hospital. The autopsy indicated gulaosi - heart and organ failure caused by extreme exhaustion.

Some 50,000 fingers are sliced off in China's factories every month. Tao Chun Lan was a 20-year-old woman from Sichuan province at the heart of China who moved to Shenzhen and got a job working in a handicrafts factory. One night, she discovered the factory was filling with smoke - and the workers were locked inside. Some 84 workers were burned or trampled to death. Lan jumped out of a window, irreparably damaging her legs. She has received no compensation. "They don't care if I am crippled for life," she says.

I will recommend the following documentary to anyone wanting to understand the abuse meted out to sweatshop labourers by both Eastern and Western corporations: The New Rulers of the World. What the above article has overlooked is the existence of Eastern corporations as well. For if you have walked into a $2 Chinese store, it is clear that there are indeed Eastern companies in the business as well. Now as I smooth the white strings on my brand new diary, I know that some bloodied hands tied them together. I got them cheap and I suspected and I must be strong next time. We all should be strong and demand better conditons for sweatshop labourers who work till death and their blood lends comfort to us. Here's to a savage human race. May Allah guide us and comfort those who are in pain.


irving said...

It is a horror for which the Western shoppers are equally responsible. I never buy anything made in China for that reason.

aiman said...

Good on you and this world, dear Irving.

I agree with you that we should stop buying, because we need an alternative. The problem, in my opinion, can only be solved with the end of Globalisation.

George Carty said...

What should you if you can't find anything BUT "made in China"?