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Chinese Company Convicted of Using Forced Prison Labor

On February 28, 2001, Peter Chen, a Taiwanese entrepreneur, pled guilty in a New Jersey federal district court to charges of selling goods in the U.S. which were produced by forced prison labor. Chen will pay a $50,000 fine.

Chen owned Allied International Manufacturing Stationery Co., Ltd. (AIMCO), of Nanjing, China, which is the first Chinese company so convicted in the U.S. Companies from the former Soviet Union, Mexico, and Japan, as well as U.S. companies importing such goods, have previously been convicted.

AIMCO sold document binding clips which were assembled by Chinese women prisoners. The women were forced to work long hours, sometimes until their fingers bled, without being paid for their labor. As a result, Chen was able to undercut competitors' prices when he sold the clips in the U.S.

Peter B. Levy, a disgruntled competitor, discovered that AIMCO's clips were produced by forced prison labor and tipped U.S. Customs officials, who seized shipments of the clips in several U.S. cities. Twenty-four million of them were destroyed, and Chen was criminally charged.

AIMCO began using forced prison labor in 1995 after its primary U.S. customer, Officemate International Corp., pressured the company to increase production. AIMCO then negotiated a deal with officials at the Nanjing Detention Center to force the women to assemble the clips. Officemate denies knowing that AIMCO used forced prison labor, but paid the U.S. Customs Service $500,000 to settle any potential civil claims arising from the case.

The prohibition on marketing in the U.S. goods which were produced by forced prison labor is set forth in a 1932 statute enacted to "prevent human rights abuses, and protect U.S. companies from unfair business competition."

U.S. prisoners, however, have no such protection from exploitation. As reported in the May, 1994, issue of PLN , goods made by Oregon and California prisoners are routinely exported to foreign countries, including China. Those prisoners are paid very little for their labor. Oddly, the U.S. government appears to see no contradiction in banning the importation of goods made by foreign prison slave labor, while simultaneously encouraging U.S. prisoncrats to export goods made by U.S. prison slave labor.

Source: Associated Press .

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