(ChinaAid—November 3, 2022) Shi Minglei, wife of jailed human rights lawyer Cheng Yuan, started a petition against Milwaukee Tool. She reported that prisoners released from Chishan prison were used as slave laborers for the company, including her husband.
ChinaAid rescued Shi Minglei, also known as Hope, in April of 2021. Her husband Cheng Yuan worked as a human rights lawyer and ran a prominent law firm in China before his arrest. Authorities sentenced him to five years for subversion of state power. National security agents interrogated Hope with a black cloth over her head, and they placed her and her young daughter under house arrest. Since arriving the United States, she has advocated for her husband in Washington DC while caring for their daughter.
Cheng Yuan wrote three letters earlier this year to his wife and family, describing the difficult conditions in Chishan prison in Hunan province:
I barely had any personal time… I worked in the workshop during the day, and my job was to operate the sewing machine… every evening for one hour [I was forced] to participate in studies and learn the superiority of socialism and experience the happiness of the great revival of China.
Hope learned from Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese activist who was in the same prison as Cheng, that the conditions were worse than depicted in the letter. Guards humiliated inmates and made life miserable for them, like calling roll in the middle of the night or sleeping in certain positions. After hearing from Lee Ming-che, Hope confirmed his details with other released prisoners and discovered her husband was used as slave labor for Milwaukee Tool:
Yes, my husband Cheng Yuan is subject slave labor in Chishan prison workshop, Hunan Province, China, to produce Milwaukee products everyday. Due to the longterm forced labor conditions and lack of protective measures for workers, my husband now has severe back, shoulder and lower back pain. His hair has all turned white, He lost [a lot of weight], now he is less than 110 lb. And he also now has Hematochezia. My husband can wait no longer!!
ChinaAid encourages supporters to read and sign Hope’s petition as well as her open letter to Milwaukee Tool President Steven Richman.