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.