Made in China

A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods


By Amelia Pang

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*A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Pick*
*A Newsweek & Refinery29 Most Anticipated Book of 2021*

“Timely and urgent.” —The New York Times
“Moving and powerful.” —Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author 

Discover the truth behind the discounts.
In 2012, an Oregon mother named Julie Keith opened up a package of Halloween decorations. The cheap foam headstones had been five dollars at Kmart, too good a deal to pass up. But when she opened the box, something shocking fell out: an SOS letter, handwritten in broken English.
“Sir: If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicuton of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

The note’s author, Sun Yi, was a mild-mannered Chinese engineer turned political prisoner, forced into grueling labor as punishment for campaigning for the freedom to join a forbidden meditation movement. He was imprisoned alongside petty criminals, civil rights activists, and tens of thousands of others the Chinese government had decided to “reeducate,” carving foam gravestones and stitching clothing for more than fifteen hours a day.

In Made in China, investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on Sun’s story and the stories of others like him, including the persecuted Uyghur minority group, whose abuse and exploitation is rapidly gathering steam. What she reveals is a closely guarded network of laogai—forced labor camps—that power the rapid pace of American consumerism. Through extensive interviews and firsthand reportage, Pang shows us the true cost of America’s cheap goods and shares what is ultimately a call to action—urging us to ask more questions and demand more answers from the companies we patronize.


1: The Brink of Death

Shenyang, China, 2009, three years
before the letter was discovered

Sun Yi lay on a stretcher in a barren white room. His mouth was parched. A steel gag had kept it pried open for more than twenty-four hours. Sun, a forty-two-year-old man with pensive eyes and a small frame, listened for noises in the hallway.

Silence. The other detainees, who worked fifteen- to twenty-hour shifts, were downstairs laboring in workshops, where they produced diodes, Halloween decorations, and disposable underwear, all of which was exported from China to the United States and Europe.

Sun looked around. His vision was blurry without his glasses—he strained to focus on the three iron bunk beds, where other prisoners were sometimes chained and starved.

He heard a metallic click. Someone was unlocking the door. The noise startled Sun, and his body jerked, causing the cuffs around his wrists and ankles to dig deeper into his skin.

A nurse wearing a bloodstained white dress entered the room, followed by two sullen colleagues. One carried a bowl of lumpy, heavily salted cornmeal. Another held tubes used for force-feeding.

The nurses rubbed talcum powder on their hands and put on white plastic gloves before organizing the tubes, some bottles, and a stethoscope.

Finally, one of the nurses broke the silence. "Are you going to cooperate this time?" Her voice was gentle and unsure, as if she did not want to be there.

Sun was too frail to talk. Unable to clench his hands into a fist, his fingers twitched as he prepared to resist the next round of torture.

Sun was afraid of death. He had been ever since he was ten years old, when he came home after school and saw his paternal grandmother sitting at the bottom of their shared bunk bed. An illiterate, brittle woman with soft eyes and a tense jaw, she was staring at some creased papers. A fortune-teller had once told her she had a blessed face, that her life would get better as she aged. The fortune-teller was wrong.

"Will you read this for me?" she asked, standing up to hand him the papers.

Sun's father, an engineer who designed petroleum extraction equipment, had warned him earlier that day to not read for her if she asked.

"Please read this to me," she said.

Sun hesitated before taking the papers.

It was her medical diagnosis. She had coronary heart disease; the major blood vessels in her heart were close to rupturing.

"What does it say?" she asked.

"I don't know," Sun lied. "I don't recognize a lot of these words."

He walked over to his reading desk by the window and listened to the raindrops clatter on the gravel outside. It startled him, the imminence of death. He blinked back tears. Grandmother will be gone soon, he thought. Everyone eventually dies. One day I will die too.

He wanted to run to his mother, but she wouldn't be home from her administrative job for several hours. Both his parents worked six days a week at the petroleum equipment manufacturing plant to earn a combined income of 70 yuan (roughly $137) a month. It was 1976, and the Cultural Revolution was reeling to an end. Everyone was poor, except for a few government officials.

Sun leaned closer to the window to hide his moist eyes. What a difficult life Grandmother has lived.

Her husband's gambling addiction had bankrupted the family's small food-processing factory. Then he got lung disease and passed away abruptly one night, leaving Sun's grandmother to feed two children on a maid's salary. Against all odds, Sun's father won a scholarship from the China University of Petroleum in Beijing. He graduated with a degree in geophysics exploration. But the proletariat class was slightly better off than the educated class at the time; he would have earned a higher wage as an assembly-line worker.

Sun grew up during a time of immense human suffering. Between 1958 and 1962, before he was born, as many as forty-five million people died from starvation and state-sponsored violence during the failed Great Leap Forward, when Mao Zedong, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, tried to create rapid industrialization by forcing farmers into mass collectives. A combination of political violence, disorganization, and unrealistic pressures had led to widespread food shortages. In the following years, many of the refugee farmers migrated from the province of Henan, a largely agricultural region, to the area around Sun's home village, near the city of Taiyuan, which had more industries bolstering its economy. He used to save kitchen scraps for the famine refugees.

Sun was living with his maternal grandmother. His parents, like most able-bodied adults at the time, had to work so much to make ends meet that they could not care for their children. Sun would not live with them until he started school.

One night in the village, when it felt like it was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, Sun followed the refugees to a half-built structure where they slept. It was a thatched, doorless cottage, made of mud and bricks and held up by a single wooden post. Sun saw a group of skeletal people huddling on the floor as an icy wind pierced the shack. He was particularly disturbed to see a rail-thin toddler girl among them. He ran home and begged his maternal grandmother to sell their family's copper spoons so they could donate money to the refugees.

"The spoons are antiques, but they won't sell for much money right now. Plus, we need them for our daily use," his grandmother said. "How about you give them some leftovers tomorrow morning?"

He sprinted to the doorless cottage early the next morning, carrying sticky rice cakes. But the cottage was empty. He scampered outside, running a little way in different directions. He could not find any trace of them. He carried the sticky rice home, wondering if the little girl would survive the winter.

A few years later, Sun looked over at his dying paternal grandmother on the bunk bed as she knitted and muttered Buddhist scriptures. He watched her needles crisscross above the blue plaid bedsheet.

Although it was dangerous to openly embrace religion during the Cultural Revolution, Sun's paternal grandmother held on to her faith. She would secretly burn incense at Mount Wutai, a cluster of sacred peaks of which the tallest transcended ten thousand feet. She would watch the trickle of smoke rise into the air and vanish. According to legend, the bodhisattva of wisdom—an enlightened being who has deferred paradise to help others—resided in these mountains and sometimes appeared in the form of colorful clouds. The lush forest, filled with poplar, fir, and willow trees, induced introspection.

Sun could tell that whenever his grandmother returned from Mount Wutai, she was at peace with the way her life had unfolded.

She was one of the few who dared to return to Mount Wutai. She never took Sun. It was too dangerous. But she taught him Buddhist scriptures at home. He didn't understand what the words meant at first, or why she held on to them so dearly.

Then, one summer, it began to make sense. Before the start of the fifth grade, Sun read Journey to the West, a classical Chinese novel chronicling the adventures of a monk on a pilgrimage to retrieve holy scriptures from India. In the beginning, Sun would stop to look up new words. But the story was so thrilling, and it spoke to him so deeply, that he started skipping over unfamiliar vocabulary. He finished all one hundred chapters in just two months.

Sun felt especially inspired when he learned that the tales were based on true events. In AD 629, a scholarly monk named Xuanzang had indeed embarked on a journey to India by foot, to collect Buddhist texts and bring them back to China. After completing the seventeen-year round trip, the monk spent the rest of his life translating the thirteen hundred manuscripts he had transported.

Journey to the West triggered something in Sun. He began pondering the meaning of life. Yearning for a part of his culture that was now forbidden, he wanted to go on a spiritual journey of his own. But where could a person find spirituality in modern China?

It was years later, on one early winter morning in 1998, when Sun would come across a group of Falun Gong followers meditating in a Beijing park.

The Falun Gong movement, also known as Falun Dafa, founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former government clerk, is based on a set of standing and sitting qigong exercises. Qigong is a slow-moving Chinese healing art with a four-thousand-year-old history. Inspired by Buddhist traditions, Li combined his meditative exercises with a moral code. Followers study Li's writings on spirituality, which center on the ideas that the mind and body are connected, that morality and meditation can elevate a person's plane of consciousness, and that this elevation can in turn resolve personal issues and even illnesses. They believe traditional qigong theories that state that illnesses are caused by blocked energy channels and karma, and that by practicing qigong exercises and living a moral life, one can eliminate karma and heal disease.

While Falun Gong has some religious characteristics, drawing on Buddhist, Taoist, and ancient folk teachings, it does not have clergy or a formal conversion process. It also does not have places of worship, although before the Chinese government banned the practice in 1999, there were regional Falun Dafa Associations, whose volunteers organized group exercises in parks.

Li Hongzhi introduced the practice during a critical period in Chinese history—a time when people in China were finally allowed to search for spirituality and meaning again after several traumatic decades of repression.

The political upheaval began in 1966 with the decade-long Cultural Revolution. Chairman Mao Zedong's Red Guards, a paramilitary group that consisted mostly of college and high school students, carried out mass killings to help Mao solidify his control over the country's Communist Party. The Red Guards annihilated anything and anyone that represented pre-Communist China's "four olds," which the party vaguely defined as old ideas, old customs, old habits, and old culture. All religious activities were banned, and the Red Guards desecrated temples. They ransacked libraries, shops, and private homes, torturing and killing traditional authority figures, such as their former teachers and principals. As schools and universities shut down, more than sixteen million young people were sent to the countryside to do hard labor on farms. In theory, this was supposed to help integrate these young people with the working class.

In the end, the Cultural Revolution killed millions and mangled China's economy. This is why modern mainland Chinese ideals tend to place higher value on social stability than human rights. The last thing people want is another revolution.

After Mao died in 1976, one of his successors, Deng Xiaoping, carried out sweeping social and economic reforms, such as relegalizing private business and reopening China to foreign trade and investments. Deng set forth a series of policies that would eventually transform China from an impoverished nation into the world's second-largest economy. His reforms also lifted the ban on religion, and a qigong resurgence ensued. Thousands of practices like Falun Gong formed throughout the 1980s and '90s, filling China's spiritual void.

But unlike many other qigong groups, Falun Gong made its exercise music, meditation instruction videos, and texts available for free on the internet. It became the most popular meditation practice, attracting seventy million followers in China at its peak, in the mid- to late 1990s.

The Chinese government initially supported Falun Gong and gave it favorable media coverage. In 1995, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) invited the practice's founder, Li, to give a talk on meditation at the Chinese embassy in Paris. But relations between Falun Gong and the party started to strain in 1996, when the group left the state-run China Qigong Scientific Research Society after a dispute over fees. The stated goal of the society was to conduct studies on the effects of qigong, but more importantly, it gave the party full control over member semireligious groups.

The Chinese regime often uses a co-opt strategy to manage dissent. People with influence outside the government, such as celebrities, union leaders, and priests, have to join the party. If the party cannot convince a potential threat to support the ruling coalition, that threat has to be eliminated. So when Falun Gong distanced itself from the government qigong association, it was problematic for the party. A group with seventy million followers was now outside its control. If Falun Gong felt inclined to launch a democracy movement, it could potentially topple the regime. It was then that anti–Falun Gong propaganda—"dangerous cult," "evil cult"—began to flood state-run news networks.

It was a predictable response. The modern Chinese political system was, after all, designed to prevent a second mass democracy movement. Starting in the early 1980s, economic reforms had allowed a portion of the Chinese population—many of whom were party leaders—to quickly grow massive amounts of wealth. As China's income disparity widened, aggrieved college students, workers, and intellectuals began calling for political reforms, which included democratic elections and freedom of the press. In the spring of 1989, as many as one million people gathered at Tiananmen Square to protest the party's corruption. The authoritarian regime ended the six-week protest with a massacre.

Ever since then, the CCP has been steadily increasing its domestic security, to stamp out any flicker of organizing that could ignite political unrest. And that included uprooting Falun Gong before it could leverage its power to become a threat.

Even when Falun Gong is discussed in the media outside China, it is often with some derision. This is partially due to the party's propaganda. The main criticisms of Falun Gong are that its practitioners often refuse medical treatment and that its code of beliefs trends conservative. Falun Gong members are generally not supportive of LGBT rights or abortion. They are also not supposed to drink, use recreational drugs, or engage in premarital sex.

Overall, though, the Falun Gong community both inside and outside China is a microcosm of religion—there are fundamentalists, moderates, and those who meditate but do not care for the practice's code of beliefs.

It's true that the more fundamentalist followers of the practice will refuse medical treatment. This is the criticism that the Chinese government has homed in on. According to the party, the ban on Falun Gong is protecting people from engaging in superstitious behaviors that could endanger their lives.

But more moderate Falun Gong followers often do not take a literal interpretation of this concept; they do not believe meditation can fully cure illnesses and are very willing to seek medical attention when qigong exercises fail to improve their ailments. Plus, the Chinese government did not create programs to help people leave what was supposedly a life-threatening cult. Instead, the CCP put them in prisons and labor camps.

Regardless of the nuances of Falun Gong's beliefs and practices, many of its followers in China have entered a new category of their own: political dissidents. What began as advocacy for freedom of religion would morph into a sprawling underground resistance movement, and by 2013, Amnesty International would estimate that Falun Gong detainees made up a third to almost 100 percent of the population of some labor camps in China. Initially an apolitical meditation group, Falun Gong would react to its slander and repression by morphing into one of the Chinese Communist Party's loudest and most organized critics.

I first heard about the Kmart SOS letter in the US press in 2013. Sun was not the first to send a message from a Chinese gulag, but the fact that he was a religious dissident imprisoned for his beliefs and political activism, rather than a violent criminal, made his letter harder to forget.

I had always wondered what happened to the authors of notes like these. By a stroke of luck, a human rights advocate reached out to me three years later, in 2016. She saw I had written an article about Chinese forced laborers manufacturing Christmas lights. She was in touch with Sun. She wanted to get his story told.

As a journalist with a personal connection to Falun Gong (my Chinese mother is a Falun Gong practitioner), I was familiar with the group's battles with the Chinese government. Although I am not a Falun Gong member myself, I used to write for the Epoch Times, a US-based Chinese dissident news organization that was staffed mostly by Falun Gong followers. More significantly, I felt that Sun's fight for freedom and his subsequent imprisonment were emblematic of a much broader human rights issue, which extends beyond Falun Gong. As China veers toward an increasingly dystopian future, the efforts of resistors like Sun become ever more important.

Over the course of three years, I immersed myself in Sun's story and the accounts of other labor camp survivors. As I spoke with the wholesalers who serve as middlemen between labor camps and big international retailers, the people who audit Chinese factories for multinational corporations, and the sales managers at the factories who respond to US consumer demands, it became clear this was more than a story about Chinese human rights. This was about unfettered globalization and overconsumption.

There is a darker side to China's rags-to-riches transformation—and our own pleasure in the cheap products that we consume daily. During our endless search for the newest trends for the lowest prices, we become complicit in the forced-labor industry. Chinese manufacturers often believe they have no choice but to secretly outsource to gulags, because they cannot meet the global consumer demand for budget prices and the latest trends. Studies have shown it is precisely brands' demands for lower prices, faster production, and fulfillment of unanticipated orders that compel factories to illegally subcontract work to places like labor camps.

And to what end? The trajectory for so many types of low-priced merchandise, and their raw materials, is a bleak one from labor camps to landfills. According to one study, about 60 percent of all clothing manufactured around the world is discarded within a few years of production. That is equivalent to one garbage truck full of clothes arriving at a landfill every second. And landfills are running out of space at a rapid pace as nonbiodegradable materials like cheap synthetic textiles and foam decorations can take decades to hundreds of years to decompose. In fact, China's largest landfill—which is the size of one hundred soccer fields piled some fifty stories high—became full a quarter of a century ahead of schedule.

This is unsustainable from both a land use and a climate perspective. Landfills release an enormous amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere—on top of the manufacturing sector's already-extensive carbon footprint.

It is crucial that China, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, reduce its carbon emissions. About 25 percent of those emissions come from the manufacturing of products for export—but this estimate is based only on factories that corporations and the Chinese government are officially tracking. In other words, this data fails to cover the massive unknown number of forced-labor facilities and other substandard factories that these manufacturers are illegally sourcing from.

The key to curbing an imminent climate catastrophe is to have accurate tracking of emissions and energy policies that cover all emissions sources. Without measurable, reportable, and verifiable statistics, countries like China cannot assess if they are on track to meet their emissions targets.

Despite the dire circumstances, there is hope for change. A global anti-sweatshop campaign against the sportswear company Nike in the 1990s ultimately forced many brands not only to begin auditing their factories but also to share those audit reports with the public—a level of transparency that was previously unfathomable. And now, as the ongoing climate crisis worsens, we are living at a time in history where people care more about sustainable and ethical consumption than they ever have before. This is especially true of millennials and members of Generation Z. Whether it's supporting companies that have reduced their carbon footprint or ones that appear to have ethical factory conditions, we are seeing a new willingness among consumers to select, or reject, brands for the express purpose of making a positive impact in the world.

Transparency, sustainability, and ethical sourcing have become hot marketing buzzwords in recent years. In 2014, CDP, a nonprofit that conducts environmental research for businesses and governments, found that companies on the S&P 500 index with a sustainability mission outperformed businesses without one. Corporations with an active plan for curbing climate change saw an 18 percent higher return on investment than companies with no such initiatives. And companies who disclosed their emissions data saw a 67 percent higher return than those who did not.

But are these companies' sourcing practices truly transparent, sustainable, and ethical? This question can't be answered without addressing the laogai (reform through labor) industry.

Inspired by Soviet gulags, China's first labor camps opened in the 1930s. China's laogai system remains the largest forced-labor system in operation today. It includes a vast network of prisons, camps, and various extralegal detention centers. These modern labor camps often have innocuous labels, such as drug detox centers or pretrial detention centers, which disguise the fact that they are forced-labor factories.

In these camps, millions of emaciated people must work fifteen to twenty hours a day, seven days a week. Many also undergo political indoctrination and torture. According to survivors, the guards torture the detainees and deprive them of sleep if they fail to meet production quotas. When there is a spike in demand, they sometimes force detainees to stay up around the clock until they finish the work.

Unlike inmates in prisons, reeducation through labor (RTL) detainees do not have trials or access to lawyers. Instead, they recieve informal sentences of up to four years from public security bureaus. When their terms are up, some detainees receive sentence extensions. Some are also transferred to other types of forced-labor facilities upon release. Many die in the camps, from torture and lack of medical care.

Sun was imprisoned in Masanjia RTL Camp, which first opened in the late 1950s. It was expanded in 1999 to make room for the sudden influx of Falun Gong captives, when the government began cracking down on the group. The Chinese economy flourished as millions of forced laborers made products for global corporations in the Chinese forced-labor network—a labor force that became equivalent to at least 25 percent of the US manufacturing sector by 2014, comprising three to five million people. And that figure is still growing. It does not include the emerging reeducation camps in the region of Xinjiang, which are currently estimated to detain 1.5 to 3 million people alone. It is unclear what percentage of those detainees are currently forced to labor.

The laogai industry is an open secret among Chinese factories. If they are ever desperate to fill a last-minute order, they know they can turn to gulags for cheap and fast production. According to Dan Cui, an apparel factory owner in the city of Guangzhou, it is well-known that factories illegally subcontract some of their work to Chinese prisons and various detention centers. When I asked her on LinkedIn if she knew any suppliers that sourced from labor camps, she said, "This is not [a] secret. Yes, some companies do like this way." But she insisted her manufacturer has never sourced from a forced-labor facility. And she would not reveal the names of suppliers that did.

The chains on the door rattled. A man with a white mask covering half his face walked into Sun's torture room. His name was Dr. Xu. He was a "barefoot doctor," a rural villager with some basic medical training. As he took over the force-feeding procedure, the look in his eyes showed Sun the doctor had a conscience. But he also wasn't looking for trouble. He had to earn a living. Without pause, he inserted a white plastic tube into Sun's dry and inflamed nose. Dr. Xu did not squirt lubricant into Sun's nostril before inserting the tube. He had been told to make the procedure as painful as possible.

With his four limbs tied, Sun could only resist by shaking his head. He struggled with such force that blood dripped from his nose.

Dr. Xu removed the bright-red tube, rubbing oil on it this time before reinserting. It slipped in easily, causing Sun's body to lurch forward. His eyes watered as he felt an urge to vomit. A guard closed his own eyes before reaching over to press Sun's head down.

The tube was slicing down his throat now. Doctors at Guantanamo Bay, who also force-feed prisoners, would stop at this point to take an x-ray or test with a dose of water to ensure that the tube was following the correct course. If a tube was inserted in the wrong spot, it could cause a collapsed lung, pneumonia, or even death. They did not bother with x-rays at Masanjia.

Sun felt an unbearable agony followed by a sharp puncture. The tube had reached his stomach.

Dr. Xu picked up the stethoscope and listened to Sun's abdomen. He surmised that the tube was in the right place.

The doctor felt the soy milk container with the back of his hand. The procedure had taken longer than he expected. The milk was already cool. According to Chinese custom, one should never consume cold drinks. He left the room to reheat the liquid, leaving behind an uncomfortable silence. Perhaps this was the only kindness Dr. Xu could show.

When Dr. Xu returned, he injected the soy milk into the tube with a syringe. Sun winced as warm fluid poured into his body. He was startled by a strange ecstasy as his muscles contracted and relaxed. His stomach, no longer his own, was eager to accept the milk he did not want. But as the liquid entered his digestive system, Sun's body went into shock. A fishy sweetness gurgled in his throat; he threw up.


  • “A moving and powerful look at the brutal slave labor camps in China that mass produce our consumer products. Amelia Pang, who puts a human face on the Chinese laborers who work in bondage, makes clear our complicity in this inhuman system. She forces us, like the abolitionists who battled slavery in the 19th century, to place the sanctity of human life before the maximization of profit. It is hard not to finish this book and not be outraged, not only at the Chinese government but the American corporations that knowingly collaborate with and profit from this modern slave trade.”
    Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist and author

    “Amelia Pang has written a powerful new book that traces what we buy back to those who made it, often under truly torturous conditions.”
    Scott Simon, host of NPR / Weekend Edition Saturday

    “Amelia Pang exposes the shadow economy of forced labor in Made in China. Pang adroitly situates readers to Chinese culture and society… [and] sounds an uplifting note of agency and empowerment about the prospective impact of reforming Western consumption.”
    San Francisco Chronicle

    “Timely and urgent… Pang is a dogged investigator.”
    The New York Times Book Review

    “The result of Pang's investigation is this powerful, illuminating book, which serves as a reminder that not only is nothing in life actually free, but it should also never be inexplicably cheap—someone, somewhere, is always paying the price.”

    “Journalist Pang debuts with a vivid and powerful report on Chinese forced labor camps and their connections to the American marketplace. Cinematic . . . Engrossing and deeply reported, this impressive exposé will make readers think twice about their next purchase.” 
    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    “An urgent, shocking and enraging account of the forced labor in China behind the cheap goods we purchase here in the U.S.”
    Ms. Magazine

    “With clarity and sensitivity, [Pang] exposes the human cost of the global demand for cut-rate products, and provides clear calls to action for individuals, corporations and governments to stem these abuses. Any reader with half a heart will be hard-pressed not to re-examine their own buying habits after reading this incredible, moving account.” 
    Shelf Awareness

    “A powerful call to action and advice for conscientious consumption . . . Spanning biography, business, and sociology, this well-reported and well-researched account of labor practices shows the impact of the demand for global goods.” 
    Library Journal

    “A powerful argument for heightened awareness of the high price of Chinese-made products.” 
    Kirkus Reviews

    “Readers will be drawn into this thoroughly researched narrative and will be awakened by the author’s pleas for consumers to be more vigilant about the origin of their goods.”

    “The book is an excellent entry-level explanation of Chinese religious and political history, and how human rights abuses intersect with billion-dollar businesses. Pang connects the dots between globalization, Western consumption, and sustainability to create a clear, cohesive picture of the problem, as well as of potential solutions.” 

    “A cinematic approach to a vital topic, which should be as close to our hearts as cheap goods are to our wallets. Amelia Pang provides close-ups of the individual stories behind labor camps, and wide-angle views of their context and history.”
    Alec Ash, author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China

    "Sun's story shows the inhuman nature of the authoritarian Chinese government. The narrative consists of many people’s untold stories. After reading this book, anyone with a conscience will realize it is time to take action for those who are persecuted by the Chinese dictatorship.”
    Chen Guangcheng, author of The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China

    “The problem of illegal prison labor being used in the People’s Republic of China to manufacture goods for global markets is a longstanding one that keeps resurfacing in new guises. Now with this well-researched and reported book that reads like a detective story, investigative journalist Amelia Pang has opened a new porthole on this pernicious practice.”
    —Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society 


On Sale
Jan 4, 2022
Page Count
288 pages
Algonquin Books

Amelia Pang

Amelia Pang

About the Author

Amelia Pang is an award‑winning journalist who has written for publications such as Mother Jones and the New Republic. In 2017, the Los Angeles Press Club awarded her first place in investigative journalism for her undercover reporting on the exploitation of smuggled immigrants who are recruited to work in Chinese restaurants. Amelia grew up in a Mandarin‑speaking household in Maryland, and holds a BA in literary studies from the New School. She lives near Washington, DC.

Learn more about this author