08:38 p.m Jul 02, 1998 Eastern
WASHINGTON, July 2 (Reuters) - Exiled Chinese dissident Bao Ge said on Thursday he was filing a class action suit against the U.S. subsidiary of Adidas-Salomon AG accusing the company of using prison labor to make soccer balls in China.
Adidas on Wednesday said it had stopped orders for soccer balls made in China while it investigated the allegations, first raised last month by Bao who said he personally manufactured soccer balls for the World Cup while in prison.
China on Thursday denied prison labour was used to manufacture soccer balls for the Adidas sports label.
But Bao, a founding member of the Voice of Human Rights in China who spent three years in a forced labour camp, and other former political prisoners are proceeding with a civil lawsuit seeking damages for pain and suffering during the 15-hour days they were forced to work seven days a week.
``Adidas knowingly used forced labor 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 on Thursday.
Segal said the group was also launching a boycott of all companies like Adidas that ``use slave labor to make their products and sell them here.''
``This is just the beginning,'' Segal told Reuters. ``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 U.S. lawmakers to halt China's use of forced labor to manufacture products
for Western consumption.
``The American people have no business buying any goods from these unconscionable businesses,'' Segal said. ``Where's the integrity of these businesses, trying to make a quick dollar from people in
The U.S. State Department estimated in a January report that 6 to 8 million Chinese were working in forced labor camps, and in a 1997 report cited ``widespread human rights abuses'' including torture,
forced confessions and arbitrary arrests.
Segal said the group's next target was the Chinese government's use of forced labor to make colored 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 labor
camps ceased operating there.
Adidas, the exclusive supplier of France 98 balls for the ongoing World Cup finals, last month assured the world soccer governing body, FIFA, it was not making such balls in China.
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DONNA ABU-NASR Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton was naive with his Chinese communist hosts and his stepping on a red carpet in Tiananmen Square was like
stepping on the blood of the victims who fell in 1989, Chinese dissidents said Thursday.
``We think President Clinton's trip ... is really a kind of disappointment'' said Shengde Lian, a leader of the 1989 democracy demonstrations on Tiananmen Square. ``His words don't help the Chinese in any way.''
As Clinton winds down his nine-day tour of China, leaders of dissident organizations in Washington are expressing dismay about the president's trip despite his open exchanges on human rights with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and students at Peking University.
The leaders claim the president was not forceful enough with Zemin and other officials about human rights and religious freedoms and should have pressured the Chinese leaders to introduce laws that protect those rights.
Indeed, some leaders, like Ye Ning, a human rights activist tortured by the Chinese government for his pro-democracy activities, said Clinton's visit has hurt democracy movements in China.
``Clinton has given the image to the world, especially to the Chinese people ... and opposition forces that the government of the United States strongly and unconditionally supports the Chinese mainstream
communist leaders,'' said Ye. ``That kind of message is very harmful to any potential of Chinese change and the (opposition).''
Bao Ge, a founding member of the Voice of Human Rights jailed for his activities, said even though Clinton talked to Zemin about human rights,
he did not achieve any substantial improvements.
``He didn't exert any pressure on Zemin,'' said Bao. ``If Jiang doesn't do (anything), what will Clinton do next?''
Lian, jailed for two years for his Tiananmen Square activities, said progress on human rights should be measured by what takes place on the ground, such as the arrests of dissidents during Clinton's tour, and not
the ``public shows'' the Chinese government put on.
Clinton was ``pretty naive,'' Lian said, contending most questions posed by the Peking University students had been prepared by the authorities,
and one of the queries pushed Clinton into criticizing the human rights situation in the United States.
Lian said Clinton should have met with the relatives of the victims of Tiananmen Square and opposition leaders.
``In Tiananmen Square, he really did not make any gestures about the democratic movement in China,'' said Lian. ``He also stepped on the red
carpet which made me and many other Chinese people feel that he's stepping on the blood of the (victims) of the communist regime.''
Joel Segal, American director of the Free China Movement, a coalition of more than 30 Chinese dissident organizations, said if China fails to
improve its human rights record, there must be ``strong, negative repercussions'' by Congress, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
``Otherwise, we'll all be cooperating with evil
and when you cooperate with evil, you are evil,'' said Segal.