China denied allegations of forced labor at a Shanghai prison, following reports that Christmas cards sold by Tesco PLC were packed by inmates, Reuters reported.
A young girl had come across a message on a Tesco Christmas card, which said: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will," Reuters reported, citing The Sunday Times.
Tesco suspended production at a Chinese factory, saying it detests the use of prison labor and would not allow it in its supply chain and launched an investigation.
According to the Times, the message urged the recipient to contact a British former journalist and corporate fraud investigator Peter Humphrey, who was imprisoned in the same jail from 2014 to 2015.
"I can responsibly say, according to the relevant organs, Shanghai's Qingpu prison does not have this issue of foreign prisoners being forced to work," China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing.
He dismissed the whole story as "a farce created by Mr. Humphrey."
Humphrey, who had spent 23 months in prison on charges of illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients, said the message fitted "with everything I know, and I have spoken with ex-prisoners who were released this year and who confirmed that that prison unit was making packaging for Tesco Christmas cards," Reuters reported.