The man, identified only as Mr. Zhang to protect his identity, told the Times that he was imprisoned in a labor camp where " inmates toiled seven days a week, their 15-hour days haunted by sadistic guards."
The labor camps are full of petty criminals or people who rebel against the country's religion, Mr. Zhang said. He said he wrote 20 letters over the course of two years.
One was discovered by Julie Keith of Oregon, who had bought the decorations over a year ago but decided to use them to decorate for her daughter's birthday party last October.
Inside the box, she found a plea for help supposedly written by a Chinese factory worker in Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, The Oregonian reported at the time.
Here's an excerpt from the letter, grammatical mistakes included:
"If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.
People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).
People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others."
Ten yuan is equivalent to $1.61.
Keith handed over the letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which opened an investigation into the matter.
Sears Holdings, the owner of Kmart, told The New York Times that an internal investigation prompted by the letter found "no violations of company rules that bar the use of forced labor."
For her part, Keith said she has nearly stopped buying products manufactured in China.
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