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Document 3 of 8.


Copyright 1998 Newspaper Publishing PLC  
The Independent (London)

July 4, 1998, Saturday

SECTION: NEWS; Page 13

LENGTH: 538 words

HEADLINE: Dissident sues Adidas over forced labour claim

BYLINE: Marcus Tanner

BODY:
    AN EXILED Chinese dissident living in the United States said he was filing a class action suit against the US subsidiary of Adidas-Salomon AG, accusing the company of using forced prison labour to make footballs in China.

Adidas said earlier this week that it had already stopped orders for the balls which were made in China while it investigated the allegations.

They were first raised last month by Bao Ge, who said he personally had had to manufacture footballs for the World Cup while being held in prison in China.

"We have stopped placing orders in China, but not permanently. We admit something happened and we want to investigate it ourselves," Peter Csanadi, global public relations director for Adidas, said in Paris.

Adidas, exclusive supplier of France98 balls for the World Cup finals, last month assured the world football governing body, Fifa, that it was not producing such balls in China.

The row is, nevertheless deeply embarrassing for Adidas, and contains echoes of earlier complaints about the conditions of workers making Nike training shoes, and which were widely seen as a contributory factor to Nike's loss of prestige, and in the end, profits.

The Chinese government also joined the argument, denying prison labour had been used to manufacture footballs for the Adidas sports label.

But Mr Bao, a founding member of the Voice of Human Rights in China and who spent three years in a forced-labour camp, and another former political prisoner, Yang Qinheng, are proceeding with a civil lawsuit seeking damages from Adidas for the pain and suffering they endured during the 15-hour days they were forced to work, seven days a week.

"Adidas knowingly used forced labour at the expense of the health and freedom of these Chinese citizens," said Joel Segal, an attorney with the Free China Movement, which announced the lawsuit.

Mr Segal said the group was also launching a boycott of all companies like Adidas that "use slave labour to make their products and sell them here. This is just the beginning." Segal said.

"We'll continue to sue. We're also working with religious and human rights groups."

He said the Free China Movement, a coalition of over 30 Chinese dissident groups inside and outside China, was also working with US lawmakers to halt China's use of forced labour to manufacture products for Western consumption.

"The American people have no business buying any goods from these unconscionable businesses."

Mr Segal said. "Where's the integrity of these businesses, trying to make a quick dollar from people in involuntary servitude?"

Other former political prisoners, participating in the suit as "John Doe" plaintiffs, are Yao Zhenxian, Han Lifa and Liang Shaoke.

The US State Department estimated in a January report that between 6 and 8 million Chinese were working in forced labour camps.

Mr Segal said the group's next target was the Chinese government's use of forced labour to make coloured light bulbs for Christmas decorations.

The Free China Movement also urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to cease granting loans to China until the forced labour camps ceased operating there.



LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

LOAD-DATE: July 06, 1998



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