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Sam.jpg

Sam

Unknown numbers of people have been held as slave laborers in China’s “Laogai” (labor reform camps). Human rights organizations claim that Falon Gong practitioners are often targeted for arrest, along with ethnic minorities, Catholics, Protestants, and Tibetans. By some estimates around 100,000 Falon Gong practitioners have been sent to the Laogai. Sam Lu was one of these individuals.

Sam, who now lives in the US, was imprisoned in 2001. He wrote his story to help end the ongoing enslavement of his wife in a different Chinese labour camp.

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Songhwa

Songhwa Han escaped to China from North Korea in the mid-1990s. After being detained in China, she was returned to North Korea, where she was held in forced labour in a state prison camp. While living in China as a refugee she also endured forced marriage, domestic abuse, detention, and official beatings. She received protection with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2006 and asylum in the United States in 2008.

China has forcibly returned tens of thousands of North Korean refugees over the past two decades. Most have been punished in North Korea with beatings, torture, detention, forced labour, and sexual violence. China’s decision to forcibly repatriate them violates the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

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Edward

"Edward" was beaten, degraded and made to work long hours in forced labour in the UK. At one point he was sold by one man to another man for £300. He was removed from a situation of exploitation by the specialist investigators of the charity Hope for Justice. The British Government estimates that there are around 13,000 people in modern day slavery in the UK today. Over 3,000 people, including nearly 1,000 children, were referred to British authorities as potential victims of slavery in 2015, a 40% increase on the previous year. The most common countries of origin were from Albania, Nigeria and Vietnam.

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Vi

In 1999, Vi was one of about 250 workers brought from Vietnam on a labor contract. A South Korean businessman named Kil Soo Lee had bought a garment factory near Pago Pago, in American Samoa, and required sewing machine operators. Vi was recruited by a Vietnamese government-owned enterprise called Tourism Company 12, and told she was heading for the US. Like the other recruits, she paid $5000 to cover the cost of airfare and work permits, and signed a three-year contract in exchange for monthly paychecks of around $400, plus free meals and housing, and return air fare. But upon arrival in American Samoa, the recruits were forced to work to pay off smuggling fees. Lee confiscated their passports to prevent them from escaping, and quickly stopped paying them altogether, though kept charging them for room and board. He withheld food, ordered beatings, and forced them to work 14-18 hour days. Female employees were sexually assaulted, and those who became pregnant were forced to have abortions or return to Vietnam. Vi’s story of slavery is also one of prosecution. In 2000, two workers at Lee’s factory sought legal help from attorneys. On behalf of more than 250 factory workers, the attorneys filed a pro-bono class-action lawsuit against Daewoosa and the Vietnamese government. The case was publicized by human rights groups, and the two workers who asked for legal help disappeared. Their bodies were never found. Then, in November 2000, a group of workers refused to return to their sewing machines, and a fight ensued between workers and factory guards. During the incident, one woman lost an eye and two other workers were hospitalized. This gained the attention of local law enforcement and the FBI Field Office in Honolulu began investigating Daewoosa in February 2001. Enforcing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), federal agents closed down the factory and arrested Lee on charges of involuntary servitude and forced labor. He was deported to Hawaii in March 2001. Though the recruiting companies and the Vietnamese government refused to pay for the workers’ flights home, they left American Samoa. Some returned to Vietnam and more than 200, including Vi, were flown to the US and admitted as potential witnesses for the prosecution at Lee’s trial. In April 2002, the High Court of American Samoa ordered the factory and two Vietnamese government-owned labor agencies to pay $3.5 million to the workers. Lee claimed bankruptcy. In February 2003, he was found guilty of involuntary servitude, extortion, money laundering and bribery, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The court also ordered him to pay $1.8 million in restitution to the workers. Vi, and the other Vietnamese workers who came to the US, applied for “T” visas, issued to victims of trafficking as a result of the TVPA.