May 21, 2005

Outside the Law

China’s prisons produce everything from green tea to coal, paperclips to footballs, medical gloves to high-grade optical equipment.
The Chinese system of re-education through labour is not actually considered to be part of the criminal justice system; it’s just an administrative way of dealing with society’s unacceptable element. A relic of the Mao era, Reform Through Labour allows the police to imprison someone without going through the system – this means they have no access to courts, lawyers, or appeals. It also means that the Chinese can claim that China prohibits export of products made with prison labour, since these institutions are not technically prisons.
And as they are neither prisons nor recognised production facilities, they completely escape international monitoring, which results in the lowest of living and working conditions, in a country where living and working conditions are already horrifically low.
Fair Trade Jeans?