Glove imports 'broke deal'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 1994, 12:00am

THE New York-based Human Rights Watch/Asia has revealed fresh evidence alleging Chinese officials have knowingly violated a Sino-American understanding banning the export of prison-made goods to the United States.

The evidence, contained in a report released today, identified an American company, Technical Consulting Trade Co (TCTC), in Illinois which the human rights watchdog said had imported around 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.

The group said the imports of the gloves raised another ethical concern because they were being touted by their manufacturer as being sold in the US for the medical examination of AIDS sufferers.

According to the report, these gloves were made by the Beijing Latex Factory which had dozens of political and other prisoners at the Beijing No 2 Prison in its service to carry out quality-checking.

The prison, according to an earlier report released by the 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.

That report also quoted accounts from inside the prison indicating that these political prisoners and other inmates had been forced to work 10 to 16-hour days at the prison, frequently developing ailments such as respiratory problems.

TCTC president Roger Newman is quoted in the report as saying 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 group said it had proved that the export business of prison-labour goods had never been stopped in spite of the 1992 MOU.

It also pointed out that the Chinese Government and prison officials had knowingly sought to evade the terms of the MOU, even after Chinese officials had maintained the exports of prison labour goods had been banned.

At the end of the report, HRW/Asia calls on the US Customs Bureau to visit the Beijing No 2 Prison ''in light of the recent history of involvement of political prisoners in checking latex medical gloves under conditions that amount to cruel and inhumane treatment''.