The first thing that we may do when opening a new bag or purse would be to throw away all the stuffed paper inside. When one Arizona woman was doing exactly that, she found a hidden note in her new purse, but didn’t care to read it initially. She did, however, pick the note up later and had the contents translated. Her heart sank when she realized what it was describing.
After receiving a gift card from her daughter-in-law, Christel Wallace, from Sierra Vista, decided to use it to buy a new purse at Walmart. The purse was left untouched for a few months until one day in March 2017, when Wallace decided to use it.
When she opened a small zipper compartment, she found a tiny folded-up note hidden inside. She didn’t think much about it and threw it into the garbage.
But she later decided to pick it up and found herself staring at the note, which was handwritten in Chinese.
It was after Wallace’s daughter-in-law, Laura, got the note translated that they realized where the note came from.
“It actually stated that the person who wrote that was a prisoner in China,” Laura told News4Tucson. “Basically what their situation was and how they work long hours, 14 hours a day. And they don’t have a lot to eat.”
“I’m very sure that that’s exactly what the note says,” Laura said.
The note, as translated by NTD, reads: “Inmates in the Yingshan Prison in Guangxi, China, are working 14 hours daily with no rest/break at noon, continue to work overtime until 12 midnight, and whoever doesn’t finish his (or her) work will be beaten. Their meals are without oil and salt. Every month, the boss gives inmates 2,000 yuan (approx. US$317) and any additional dishes will be finished by the police. If the inmates are sick and need medicine, the cost will be deducted from their salary. Being a prisoner in China is worse than being a horse, cow, sheep, pig, or dog in the U.S.”
“My heart went into my stomach,” Wallace told Arizona Daily Star.
Laura decided to post it on her Facebook page in April.
“I don’t have the means or the access to help in any way. So I think this was my way of putting in my two cents,” Laura explained. “I don’t want this to be an attack on any store … That’s not the answer. This is happening at all kinds of places and people just probably don’t know.”
After the photo of the note went viral, a spokesperson for Walmart said, “We can’t comment specifically on this note, because we have no way to verify the origin of the letter, but one of our requirements for the suppliers who supply products for sale at Walmart is all work should be voluntary as indicated in our Standards for Suppliers.”
This is not the first time that such notes written by detainees in China have made their way to consumers in the United States.
In 2014, Stephanie Wilson from Australia, who lived in West Harlem, New York City, found a letter inside a paper shopping bag from Saks Fifth Avenue. The letter was written by Tohnain Emmanuel Njong, who was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in Qingdao City, Shandong Province, for fraud, a crime that Njong claims he never committed.
And in 2012, Julie Keith of Oregon found a S.O.S letter hidden inside a Halloween “graveyard” kit that she had bought from K-Mart. This note details even worse treatment than the other note found by Wallace.
The man who wrote the note was later revealed to be Sun Yi, a Chinese engineer, who was detained at the notoriously brutal Masanjia Labor Camp in the northern city of Shenyang for two and a half years because he practices Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient mind-body cultivation practice based upon the principles—Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. With the practice’s rapid growth during the 1990s in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) perceived the practice to be a threat to its authoritarian rule. As a result of this paranoid fear, then-Party-leader Jiang Zemin ordered a brutal persecution to “eradicate” the practice on July 20, 1999.
Sun’s letter states that detainees are forced to work 15 hours a day with no break, nor any days off, “otherwise, they will suffer torturement, [sic] beat and rude remark. nearly no payment (10 yuan (approx. US$1.58) /1 month).”
After being arrested multiple times over the course of 15 years, Sun managed to escape from China in December 2016 to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Keith had a chance to meet him there, which was widely reported.
But a few days before his 51st birthday, Sun passed away on Oct. 1, 2017, under mysterious circumstances at a hospital in Bali, Indonesia. The hospital claimed that Sun died of kidney failure.
However, Sun’s family said that he never had kidney health problems, and they say the hospital rushed to cremate his body without his family’s consent. The hospital was not willing to provide further details about Sun’s sudden death.
Sun’s death raised suspicions from family and friends. It is suspected that he was killed by being injected with poison due to pressure from the CCP.