Economics/Class Relations

The Alarming Human Toll of Cheap Stuff ‘Made in China’

, New York Times

A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods
By Amelia Pang

Five chapters into “Made in China,” Amelia Pang’s investigation of forced labor practices in China, her main subject — a Falun Gong practitioner named Sun Yi — is tasked with making decorative paper mushrooms for export, it is rumored, to Europe. It is early during his stay in a forced labor camp called Masanjia, and the assignment is supposed to be a cushy one. How difficult can it be to make paper mushrooms? Sun, however, soon scrapes his fingers rubbing the paper together to get the desired fake-mushroom feel. His cuts grow infected, but he keeps working, trying to fill an impossible quota of 160 mushrooms per day. Other inmates steal mushrooms from one another in desperation, growing thin on a diet of poisonous-smelling vegetable soup. “Sun regularly slept just two to four hours,” Pang writes. “Only to dream of the repetitive creasing motions of folding paper mushrooms.”


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