When contracting with Chinese manufacturers, it's very hard to avoid forced labor

The China Law Blog (previously) is one of my favorite sources of insight into the secret workings of the businesses that produce the majority of the world's daily-use goods.

The latest post, Forced Labor in China: Don't trust AND verify, is a sobering example: Fred Rocafort describes how even cursory audits of labor practices turn up subcontracting arrangements with forced-labor prisons.

The issue is of the moment in part because of the one million-plus prisoners in Xinjiang province who have reported forced labor in Muslim-reeducation concentration camps (they have also reported punitive rape, forced medical experimentation, etc).

If Chinese forced labor sickens you — and it should — you should also turn your eye to the US prison system, where forced labor is the norm, especially in the private prison industry.

A: We are here on behalf of our mutual client, Y Brands. As per the terms of the agreement between your company and Y Brands, we are here to perform an audit. Y Brands has given advance notice to your corporate office.

P: Uh, okay. What kind of audit?

A: A social compliance audit. Looking at workplace safety and things like that.

P: Ah, I see. Please go ahead. Let me know if you have any questions.

A: Well, to be honest, this doesn't look like a factory. I only see a few products here and there, and none of them belong to our client. Where is the production line?

P: Oh, we only handle quality control here. The products are made elsewhere.

A: And where would that be?

P: A prison in L City [few hundred miles away].

A: A prison?

P: Yeah, it's a lot cheaper than a normal factory. Here, these are some invoices we have received from the prison.

Forced Labor in China: Don't trust AND verify [Fred Rocafort/China Law Blog]