A Dongguan company that admitted to using prison labour has been supplying disposable headphones to Qantas, Emirates, British Airways and other major airlines. One Australian inmate described the conditions under which the headphones were made as “very cruel,” Financial Review reports.
Dongguan City Joystar Electronic Co said it had used prison labour to fill an order from Airphonics of 300,000 sets of disposable headphones last year. Qantas confirmed that Airphonics was its main supplier.
Qantas said on Tuesday it had suspended its dealings with Airphonics while “we investigate further”.
Five Australians, including travel entrepreneur Matthew Ng, are currently being held at Dongguan Prison and are forced into prison labour. The paper has more:
Mr Cancian, who spent four years in jail for manslaughter after a restaurant brawl, said that failure to meet production targets in Dongguan would mean “you are taken outside and tasered”.
“It’s a very cruel environment. You wake up every morning wondering if you are going to survive the day,” he said.
Another former Dongguan inmate, who asked not to be named, confirmed he had made inductors as well as headphones for international airlines while serving a five-year sentence.
“Yes, I made them for the Australian airline Qantas, the one with the Kangaroo as its logo,” he said. “We also made them for Emirates, British Airways and lots of others.”
In 2011 it emerged that China had used prison labour in lucrative internet gaming work.
You can read China’s defence of its Reform of Criminals Through Labour program here:
China’s law stipulates that all criminals who are able to work must participate in work activities. Those who are found to be unable to work by a doctor’s examination or those who are old, infirm, disabled or otherwise unfit for work do not participate. According to statistics, about 10% of the prison population did not participate in labour in 1990. The Chinese Government opposes the use of labour as a means of punishing criminals, as well as the use of heavy labour as a means to maltreat prisoners.
China faithfully practices the use of forced labour as a reform method rather than as a method for punishment.
However, it seems the rights of the prisoners are minimal.
Prisoners in Dongguan are paid 8 yuan a month for their labour, which is only slightly more than it costs to buy a cake of soap in the prison shop.
However, Cancian said: “They claimed it was not slave labour because they paid us.”