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Old 29-10-18, 14:09   #1
 
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Unhappy SOS Found in Halloween Decorations From Chinese Labour Camp

‘The SOS in My Halloween Decorations’

BBC, 29 October 2018


Inside a notorious Chinese labour camp, a dissident smuggled an SOS letter into the Halloween decorations he was forced to manufacture. Years later, a woman in the US opened a box of fake tombstones and found his note. It seemed impossible at that moment that they would ever meet.


A few years ago, as the evenings began getting colder and darker, Julie Keith remembered the graveyard kit in her loft.

She'd picked it up for $29.99 from the supermarket chain, Kmart, a couple of years before that. It contained polystyrene headstones, fake skulls and bones, black spiders and a cloth drenched in imitation blood.

It had been gathering dust in the loft ever since. But when her daughter told her she wanted a Halloween-themed fifth birthday party, Julie, then 42, thought of the kit and went upstairs to fetch it.

Then, as she opened the box in her living room, a sheet of lined paper fell out.

On it was a message, neatly hand-written in blue ink. Julie's daughter picked it up and asked her to read it. The English was broken and frequently mis-spelt, but its meaning was clear enough.


"Sir," it began. "If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly send this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."


Julie read on.

The note said that the graveyard kit had been produced in unit eight, department two of Masanjia labour camp in Shenyang, China. Inmates there had to work there for 15 hours a day seven days a week:

"Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month)."

Today 10 yuan is roughly equivalent to £1.10 or US$1.44.


Prisoners were detained on average for one to three years without a formal court sentence, the note continued. Some of them belonged to the spiritual movement Falun Gong. "They often suffer more punishment than others," the note said.

There was no signature at the end.

"I was kind of in shock," Julie says. "I just couldn't believe that something like that was here, in front of me."

It seemed miraculous that this scrap of paper had travelled thousands of miles to her home in Damascus, near Portland, in the US state of Oregon, and then languished in her home for two years until 2012. She tried to imagine how desperate its author must have felt, how much courage it must have taken to slip it in among the decorations.

Julie, a manager at the Goodwill thrift store chain, knew nothing at all about this person, but it was obvious to her that he or she desperately wanted the world to know what was happening at Masanjia.
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