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Slavery in China
Friday. 12.15.06 7:48 pm
HONG KONG -- Labor rights activists claim that toys distributed at McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong are made with child labor in China.

The activists say they have surreptitiously photographed scenes at factories just across the border in China showing girls in their early teens working 16- to 20-hour workdays making the Snoopy, Winnie-the-Pooh and Hello Kitty toys.

The activists say the girls live in cramped and Spartan dormitories and are paid about $3 (U.S.) a day.

"The factories were not only using child labor but violating workers' basic rights," said Parry Leung of the Christian Industrial Council. "This is one of the most serious examples of child labor abuse in China," he said.

McDonald's issued a statement saying it "takes these issues very seriously. Our Code of Conduct for suppliers makes clear that we will not tolerate any substandard practices."

Despite the promise by McDonald's of a full-scale inquiry, there have been calls for a boycott of the restaurants. Last week about 20 activists demonstrated outside one of the McDonald's in Hong Kong. "Stop exploitation, shame on McDonald's," The activists chanted.
Economy driving sweatshops

Beneath the gleaming exteriors of the boom towns that have exploded near Hong Kong in southern China, thousands of foreign-funded factories employ millions of workers -- many of them children.

"We know there are sweatshops in mainland China that employ children in ways that cannot be acceptable," said Law Yuk-kai, a human rights monitor.
Toys sold along with McDonald's meals are popular in Hong Kong

The problem is made worse by poverty in rural China, which drives many people to urban areas in search of jobs that foreign companies, eager to exploit cheap Chinese labor, are ready to offer.

Activists say the practice has proved virtually impossible to stamp out.

"The factories hire children who use fake IDs. Local governments are bribed by factory owners to ignore the problem," said Leung.

And in the wake of publicity, activists say some young workers have been fired to prevent them from talking to investigators.

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Sunday. 12.10.06 7:32 pm
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