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Forced prison labor allegations untrue, China Tesco supplier says

BEIJING (Reuters) – Allegations that a Chinese printing firm which supplies British supermarket giant Tesco <TSCO.L> uses the forced labour of foreign prisoners are “completely fabricated”, Chinese state television on Tuesday cited the factory’s manager as saying.

Tesco suspended the Chinese supplier of Christmas cards on Sunday after a media report said a customer found a message written inside a card saying it had been packed by foreign prisoners who were victims of forced labor.

The Sunday Times said a young girl had found a note in a charity card sold by Tesco reading: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will.” China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday dismissed the allegations.

Speaking to state television, Lu Yunbiao, general manager of Zhejiang Yunguang Printing factory, said he was “astonished” by the report because “we’ve never done that”.

Lu said he had no contact details for Qingpu prison nor their address.

“This is completely fabricated and slander. We have never established any commercial relationship with Qingpu prison,” he added.

Chinese workers make all the company’s products and they follow Chinese labor laws, Lu said.

The Christmas cards are wholly produced by the company and then exported, he added. “I am extremely angry at receiving such unjustified charges against a Chinese company.”

Foreign companies regularly carry out random checks for the company’s employees’ rights, the environment and security measures, Lu said.

“Under our contract, our company must be transparent with our customers in all aspects, and they can even inspect our computers. We are very transparent and very accountable to our customers, and there is no concealment in our business.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Alison Williams and Catherine Evans)

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