Stephanie Wilson found the disturbing letter and a small passport-sized photo of a man in an orange jacket inside a paper shopping bag from Saks Fifth Avenue.
The letter was written and tucked into the bottom of the bag by a man named Tohnain Emmanuel Njong, who claimed he made it in a Chinese prison. The prisoner claimed that when he was arrested on charges of fraud, he had one or two passport photos in his pocket that he transferred to his prison uniform. He later bundled them with some of the letters he wrote.
“We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory,” he said in the letter. It ended with,“Thanks and sorry to bother you.”
It also included a Yahoo email address and triggered a hunt for the whereabouts of the mystery man.
Wilson showed the letter to the Laogai Research Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group fighting against human rights abuses in Chinese prisons. However, an email sent to the address bounced back.
Harry Wu, the founder of Laogai Research Foundation, is well aware of what the desperate man may be going through and the less than appealing consequences he may face. Wu himself spent 19 years in a Chinese prison factory, known as laogai.
"There would be solitary confinement until you confess and maybe later they increase your sentence — or even death," Wu said.
His organization referred the letter to the Department of Homeland Security. So hopefully there will be an investigation and some good might come out of it.
Working conditions for free people are horrific in China as it is, so one can only imagine the inhumane environment in which Njong is producing these shopping bags.