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China Accused of Olympics Merchandise Child Labor

Reuters | June 11, 2007

BEIJING—Chinese factories are churning out licensed bags, caps and stationery for the 2008 Beijing Olympics using child labour and paying workers less than half the minimum wage, a reports says.

As members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) gather in London for a progress update on the 2012 Games, the report–"No Medal for the Olympics"–finds evidence of children as young as 12 producing Olympic merchandise.

The Playfair Alliance, represented in Britain by the Trades Union Congress and Labour Behind the Label, researched working conditions at four factories making 2008 Olympic bags, headgear, stationery and other products.

"It also reveals that factory owners are falsifying employment records, and forcing workers to lie about their wages and conditions," the TUC said in a release.

Researchers also found adults earning half the legal minimum wage in China and employees who were made to work up to 15 hours per day, seven days a week.

"Children and adult workers are being grossly exploited so that unscrupulous employers can make more profit," TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber was quoted as saying.

"Their actions tarnish the Olympic ideal, and we don't want more of the same when the Olympics come to London. The IOC must add respect for workers' rights to the Olympic charter."

Beijing authorities seized nearly 30,000 fake Olympic souvenirs in February, some made from toxic materials, state media reported earlier.

A week earlier, Chinese customs officials flagged a crackdown on fake Olympic merchandise, and said more than 100 cases of imported and exported goods infringing on the Olympic trademark had been handled since 2002.

China regularly defends its record on fighting piracy, saying it is a developing country and needs time. But pirated goods ranging from drugs and designer bags to foods, movies and music discs are openly sold in shops and on street corners.

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