Hey Reddit! I'm the author of Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods. In early 2019, I went to China to visit labor camps. I said I was from an overseas company that wanted to source products from them. And they agreed to sell me goods made by prisoners. I also followed the freight trucks that left these camps to several kinds of exporters – including an official Apple supplier. AMA.

Check out my New York Times Op-Ed: It Took a Genocide for Me to Remember My Uighur Roots

And here's the New York Times review of the book: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/02/books/review/made-in-china-amelia-pang.html



Update: Thanks for the support and great questions everyone, have to log off now!

Second Update: Since this person deleted the question after I responded... posting my response here. I've written about America's prison problems too. https://newrepublic.com/article/155553/drug-company-illegally-experiment-louisiana-prisoner

Comments: 2354 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

sleepyinschool991 karma

This is a very uncomfortable question, but I’ve seen people try to discredit you based on your past work with the Epoch Times (17 articles over a 5 year period). How would you respond to them?

ameliapang1205 karma

I was in college when I wrote for them. I stopped writing for them 5 years ago. At the time, they weren't a right-wing publication yet. That all happened very recently. I wouldn't have written for them if they were. Their views do not represent my views at all.

johnheterjag159 karma

I’m running a small business, buying from China sometimes. Really a piss in the ocean compared to wal mart.. What can I do to really know my products origin and how they’re manufactured? I don’t have the budget or power to do unannounced visits.. and whatever certificate I ask for I can always get, doesn’t mean shit tbh.. what could I do?

ameliapang129 karma

That's a great question. It's hard for even unannounced audits to detect something as hidden as unauthorized subcontracting to labor camps. Can you find a way to rewrite the contract...to say you may be sending someone to follow their trucks to see which suppliers they're really subcontracting to? Right now, the message that a lot of these factories get is: "We don't tolerate forced labor. But we're not really going to check." If you can find a way to send a different message, to show them you're serious about not having forced labor in your supply chain...that could be really helpful.

tastethefame157 karma

Who funded your investigation?

ameliapang145 karma

I received a modest advance from Algonquin Books. That's it.

Dedushka_shubin88 karma

Do you have any information about when this practice started?

ameliapang118 karma

These camps have existed for decades. They really help the Chinese government silence dissent. Anyone can disappear into one of these facilities without going to trial. The detainees usually don't have access to a lawyer. And these forced labor facilities are rapidly expanding in recent years, with the rise of Uyghur re-education camps.

S-071-John82 karma

What do you think can be done about this problem? Apple obviously knows and doesn’t care, or, thinks no one else cares. The UN is likely to continue to be as useless as the League of Nations.

ameliapang114 karma

I think consumers will be doing a lot more to hold our favorite brands accountable in the future. For companies like Apple, it always comes down to the bottom line. Will it be more profitable to continue sourcing from these facilities? Or will it be more profitable, in the long run, to invest in better suppliers? Apple's target market has to show Apple that they care. And we're starting to see that with Gen Z. Much more than their predecessors, Gen Z consumers tend to have less brand loyalty, and are more willing to boycott brands they find unethical. Gen Z will soon become the largest American consumer population. And a lot of brands are already starting to rethink their business strategies to capture that Gen Z market.

Fuck_You_Downvote71 karma

Has this changed your shopping habits at all?

ameliapang139 karma

It has. A lot of times, our companies are not giving their factories enough time to make products according to ethical standards. When the production deadlines are too short because everyone is trying to capitalize as much as they can on the latest fast fashion trends, then factories have no choice but to outsource work to shady places like labor camps, where detainees can work 15-20 hours a day to meet our demands. This is connected to us, and the way that we shop as global consumers. I try not to buy new clothes all the time anymore, just because it's a new trend. I'm okay with wearing the same outfits for years at a time.

General_Guisan47 karma

What do you think of the American "for profit" prison system, and it's world #1 rank in prisoners to population ratio? Is American forced labour better than Chinese one?

ameliapang64 karma

Shane Bauer wrote a great book about this called "American Prison." Yes, America has an awful, awful prison problem. We still haven't addressed our mass incarceration problem in a meaningful way. But as Bauer pointed out in his book, most prisoners in the US are not working anymore. There's simply too many of them and not enough jobs.

Whereas in China, most detainees and prisoners are either doing manufacturing or agriculture work for little or no payment. Why can't we care about both issues?

fluffspeed41 karma

So what motivated you personally to pursue this?

ameliapang58 karma

You hear stories of SOS letters being found in Western products all the time. It gets a lot of media attention. These stories tend to go viral. But rarely does anyone look at the holes in our supply chain, and the problematic ways that our companies "audit" overseas factories.

uglyduckling71833 karma

Have you felt any threat from the Chinese government since your publishing and op-ed? Are you allowed back?

ameliapang69 karma

I get a lot of attacks from trolls, but that's about it. They haven't canceled my visa yet. We'll see.

MalcoveMagnesia5 karma

We need more brave journalists to expose crimes and practices like this, but now that you've reported it, you'll never be let back into China.

And won't they tighten up access to these camps and factories to keep this kind of negative publicity away from Western consumers?

ameliapang40 karma

They will tighten security, for sure. That's why the Uyghur camps are much more closely guarded than other kinds of forced labor detention centers...Since Xinjiang is getting a lot of media attention these days.

But in the digital age, journalists have more work-arounds. You can look at satellite images of these facilities to get a better understanding of how fast they're expanding. You can look at domestic Chinese media, which often reveal quite a bit of information. Like the names of factories that participate in the "Uyghur labour transfer program." And you can look at customs records to see which global corporations are ordering products from these facilities. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute did a great job investigating labor camps using these kinds of strategies. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale