The Corner


Free Labor, and Slave

A Uyghur man in front of a wall painted with slogans, Xinjiang Province, 2012 (Stringer/Reuters)

Today, I have an Impromptus column. It starts with J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, who has penned a brief new work — a Twitter thread, actually. Striking. The column continues with the question of American allies (and foes). There are also comments on music, language, basketball — the usual.

I’d like to spend a second here on China, and on journalism. A paragraph from my column:

I don’t believe that the purpose of reporting should be to effect change. I think the purpose of reporting should be to find out and tell the truth. But if this finding out and telling leads to positive change — halleloo.

A team of reporters from the Associated Press investigated slave labor in East Turkestan, or Xinjiang Province. You recall that something like a million Uyghurs have been thrown into reeducation camps, a new gulag. The AP team traced products from one factory to a sportswear company in North Carolina. A short time later, the company announced that it would no longer accept products from this source.

Some years ago — in 2006 — I interviewed and wrote about Dr. Charles Lee. He is a Chinese American and Falun Gong practitioner. For three years, he was imprisoned in China. I will quote from my piece:

… he was made to work in prison sweatshops. He assembled Christmas lights. “The room was small, and it was crowded with about 60 people. The temperature was over 42 degrees centigrade” (108 degrees Fahrenheit). He also made bedroom slippers with Homer Simpson’s image on them. (Homer is the father on the TV cartoon The Simpsons.) You put your foot where Homer’s mouth is.

I ask, by the way, what he thinks of people in the Free West who buy those slippers. He says, “Oh, they just want the cheapest product. But I feel that, if they knew about my situation, it would bother them.”

Yes, it would. You know how certain grocery products are labeled “Organic”? You know how we have labels for nearly everything? When it comes to products from China, I wish we could have labels indicating “Slave Labor” or “Free Labor.”

Many years ago, after hearing one too many stories about slave labor in China, I decided that, dammit, I would no longer buy Chinese products. The next day, I believe, it rained. I went to one store. All the umbrellas were made in China. I went to another store. I went to a third. Same.

Thus did I crumble.

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More