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Woman Receives Plea for Help From Chinese Labor Camp Prisoner

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Thu, November 7 2013 at 5:24 PM, Updated: Thu, November 7 2013 at 6:36 PM

A cry for help, handwritten in a box of Halloween decorations that's what one Oregon woman discovered.

It was a normal Halloween for Julie Keith last year. That is, until she found a letter scribbled in broken English and Chinese inside a box of Halloween decorations bought at a K-Mart near Portland.

"Sir, if you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Rights organizations," said the man in the letter.

The note was written on torn-out pages from exercise books. It traveled nearly 6000 miles from China to Oregon from a man who said he worked 12 hours a day, was beaten, sleep deprived and tortured in a Chinese labor camp.

"I knew about labor camps in China but it slammed me in the face," said Julie Keith, the woman who found the letter.

CNN was able to track the man down one year after Keith received the letter and posted it on social media. The man's identity is hidden due to fear that he might get sent back to work in a labor camp. He said he was imprisoned for his religious beliefs.

"We all suffered through inhumane torture," said the man.

Back in Medford, some people say they weren't aware of Chinese labor camps until now. However, after hearing about the letter...

"It makes me kind of sad that I buy those products because I'm enabling that to happen in other countries," said Medford resident Cheyeanne Munoz.

"I'm going to definitely look into what I'm buying, look more into that," she continued.

Others say they already try to take steps to prevent human abuses.

"I always look at my brands now, I always look where things are made," began Chase Ballard, who is also a Medford resident.

"I do second hand shopping, that's what I do."

Even so, according to the man who sent the letter, the truth is:

"Under the communist party's rule, China is a big labor camp," read Keith from a follow-up letter the man sent to her after he was released from the labor camp and CNN found him.

Still, the man is just happy he's now out of the labor camp and that someone an ocean away listened, cared and took action.

CNN asked K-Mart how products made in a Chinese prison camp ended up on their store shelves. Sears Corporation, which owns K-Mart told CNN: "We found no evidence that production was subcontracted to a labor camp during our investigation."

But they added "Sears holdings no longer sources from this company."

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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