Beijing denies accord breach
BEIJING last night reacted swiftly to deny a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch/Asia containing fresh evidence alleging Chinese officials knowingly violated a Sino-American understanding banning the export of prison-made goods to the United States.
But in denying the report, due to be made public today, authorities confirmed that the Beijing No 2 Prison did sign an agreement with a Beijing factory to subcontract the quality control work of latex medical examination gloves made by the Beijing Latex Factory.
An unidentified ''responsible official'' of the Ministry of Justice was quoted by Xinhua (the New China News Agency) as saying that although the Beijing No 2 Prison was responsible for the quality control work, the contract signed stated that all the latex gloves examined by the prisoners were for ''domestic sales'' only.
The official also denied an earlier claim by HRW/ Asia that prisoners at the Beijing No 2 Prison faced inhumane treatment and said since physical punishment for prisoners was subject to strict supervision under Chinese laws, abuses did not exist.
Robin Munro, HRW/ Asia spokesman in Hong Kong, last night welcomed the ''confirmation'' by the Chinese official but said his group had ''documentary evidence'' to show that the bulk of the medical gloves were in fact exported to the US.
According to the HRW/ Asia report, an American company, Technical Consulting Trade Co (TCTC) in Illinois, was identified by the human rights watchdog as having imported 100 tonnes of latex medical examination gloves involving the use of prison labour.
The report said the imports, which arrived in five shipments in Long Beach, California, between last October and February, were a contravention of both US laws and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Chinese and US governments in 1992.
TCTC president Roger Newman is quoted in the report as saying that although he had heard rumours of the involvement of prison labour, he knew nothing of the contract between the Beijing Latex Factory and Beijing No 2 Prison or anything about the conditions in which the prisoners worked.
The Beijing No 2 Prison, according to an earlier report released by HRW/ Asia and another New York-based organisation, Human Rights in China, jailed more than 50 political prisoners who were mostly peaceful ''counter-revolutionary'' dissidents imprisoned after the June 4, 1989, government crackdown.