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12.31 19 Oct 2015


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A letter claiming to be an SOS message from a Chinese prisoner has been found in a packet of socks bought in Penneys store on Mary Street in Dublin.

The note was discovered by a shopper living in the capital, who found it hidden in the bottom of a sock and sent the document to Newstalk.

Amnesty International provided Newstalk with this translation:

"I am a 39-year-old man living at [gives specific address], Lingbi County, Suzhou City, Anhui Province. On 29 June 2014, I was falsely accused and framed by the public security leadership of the Lingbi County Government for going to Beijing to report corrupt officials to the state leaders using my real name.

"I have been illegally and forcibly detained in the Lingbi County Detention Centre (Prison) since then and suffered from serious torture and persecution. I have been maimed."

It continues to call for the message to be spread through the media to alert China's leaders that he has been imprisoned.

The letter ends, "Now only the state leaders or media exposure can help to save me."

It also claims that the author's wife has been beaten - and includes a contact number for his brother. When Newstalk called this number it was out of service.

After an investigation by Primark, the company said that it has not found "any link" between the document and the factory in China where the socks were manufactured.

In a statement to Newstalk, Primark said that it carried out an "unannounced inspection" of the factory - and found no "link between the garment, the author of the note nor any evidence of forced labour."

Discovery 

Dublin-native Jason Heffernan found the letter which he says was in sealed plastic packaging and hidden in one of the socks:

"I just put the sock on and felt something, and thought it was a receipt," he told Newstalk, adding that it was "well hidden" in the bottom of the sock. He purchased the product on Thursday September 1st.

Mr Heffernan had read about previous instances of 'SOS' notes appearing in garments, and turned to social media to try to get the letter translated.

A Primark spokesperson in Ireland said: “Primark has carried out a thorough investigation into the note found in a garment bought in its Mary Street store including carrying out an unannounced inspection of the factory concerned.

"We have not found any link between the garment, the author of the note nor any evidence of forced labour."

It continues: "Indeed, Primark’s team in China found a contented workforce and no forced labour." 

The statement continues to outline Primark's commitments to ensuring that its products are made in good working conditions.

Amnesty International Ireland has worked with staff members in London and China to investigate the claims made in the letter - it says that the human rights group "is not in a position to verify the authenticity of the note."

It continues, "However, we have long been concerned with prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners in China, including the use of torture and other ill-treatment in detention."

Letters

An almost identical note was posted on Reddit in August - it says that it was also found in socks bought "in the UK" - it is also written by a man who says that he has been imprisoned in Lingbi County for reporting corrupt officials.

Here are two handwriting samples from the two letters:

 
 
Note found in Dublin
 
Note uploaded to Reddit
 

Primark has previously concluded that labels sewed into garments sold in UK stores were part of a hoax. 

When a similar "SOS" letter was discovered in a pair of trousers bought in a Primark store in Belfast, Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, Patrick Corrigan said that it is "difficult to know" if these notes are genuine, before adding that "the fear has to be that this is just the tip of the iceberg."

In the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, when 1,129 workers died after a fire caused a factory to collapse in 2013 - Primark confirmed that it paid £1.5m in compensation to workers and their families as of April of that year.

"The company calls on other brands sourcing from Rana Plaza to now contribute a fair share of this tranche of aid," a spokesperson said at the time.

If you know of any other people who have found similar notes in goods sold in Irish shops - please get in touch with us at info@newstalk.com.


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