An Australian woman has found a desperate SOS from a prisoner-factory “slave” in China hidden inside a Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag.
Stephanie Wilson, an Australian living in New York, found the note written on white lined paper, after buying a pair of Hunter rain boots in September 2012, DNAinfo reports.
“HELP! HELP! HELP! We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory,” the note said.
“Please help me to contact the Human Rights Department or if possible contact (Cameroonian footballer) Samuel Eto’o.”
The writer identifies himself as Tohnain Emmanuel Njong, a Cameroonian national who also attached a colour passport sized photo of himself.
Mr Njong mentions English Premier League striker Eto’o because he was the footballer’s fan club manager at the University of Yaounde near central Africa.
“I read the letter and I just shook,” Ms Wilson said.
“I could not believe what I was reading.”
Ms Wilson took the letter to the Laogai Research Foundation, a Washinton D.C. based advocacy group which began investigating its validity.
The organisation referred the letter to the US Department of Homeland Security which confirmed it was aware of the letter, but would not say if it was being investigated or if it as looking at Saks in connection to it.
Website DNAinfo located a man claiming to be Mr Njong who said he was teaching English in May 2011 in the Chinese city of Shenzhen when he was arrested and charged with fraud. He was able to describe the letter unprompted.
While held behind bars he was forced to work long hours making paper shopping bags, assembling electronics or sewing garments.
Mr Njong was not allowed to contact anyone in the outside world during this time, even to let them know he was in prison.
He wrote and hid five letters written in English and French in paper shopping bags during his time in prison.
“We were being monitored all the time,” he told DNAinfo.
“I got under my bed cover and I wrote it so nobody could see that I was writing anything.”
Mr Njong was released in December 2013 and deported to Cameroon, where his family had allegedly been led to believe he was dead.
He is now working in Dubai.
Saks Fifth Avenue said it was unable to determine the specific origin of the paper bag