Tesco Withdraws Cards After Girl Finds Message About Alleged Forced Labour
Young Florence Widdicombe had opened up a box of Tesco charity Christmas cards to send to her friends, but was surprised when she found one of them had already been written on.
Inside, a message in capital letters read: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China.
"Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation."
The message then asked the reader to contact former journalist Peter Humphrey, who has previously spent time in Qingpu prison.
Tesco has since halted production at the factory that produces the particular cards, saying it was 'shocked' and has now launched an investigation.
Having said it would de-list Zheijiang Yunguang Printing - the supplier of the cards - if it was found to be using prison labour, the supermarket chain added: "We would never allow prison labour in our supply chain."
Florence, from south London, told the BBC: "It made me feel shocked."
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She explained that she'd been writing her 'sixth or eighth card' when she realised 'somebody had already written on it'.
When someone explained to her what the message meant, Florence said it made her feel 'sad'.
Her father, Ben, said he first thought the message was a prank, but then realised it was 'potentially quite a serious thing'.
He explained: "I felt very shocked but also felt a responsibility to pass it on to Peter Humphrey as the author asked me to do."
Humphrey then wrote up the story for The Financial Times.
He said: "It hits home. There are injustices in the world and there are people in difficult situations and we know about that and we read about that each and every day.
"There is something about that message hitting home at Christmas... that really does make it very poignant and very powerful."
He added: "It could have ended up anywhere. And indeed we have many cards as all families do that are left over and we put them in a drawer and forget about them. There is an incredible element of chance in all of this that the card was written, it got to us and we opened it on the day we did."
Tesco has said it has a 'comprehensive auditing system' to ensure suppliers are not exploiting forced labour.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: "We were shocked by these allegations and immediately halted production at the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation."
Read Peter Humphrey's full Financial Times report here.
Featured Image Credit: The Widdicombe family