A US woman got more than she bargained for in a box of Halloween decorations, finding a desperate note claiming to be from a Chinese labour camp worker begging for help.
Julie Keith discovered the handwritten note stashed inside a box of artificial tombstones, spider webs and skeletons that she bought from a Kmart store in Oregon for her daughter's Halloween party.
The author of the letter claimed to work at Mashanjia Labour Camp in Shenyang, China, and said they were forced to work 15 hour days, threatened with torture and paid less than $2 a month.
"People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday Sunday break and any holidays," the note, which Ms Keith posted on her Facebook page, stated.
"Otherwise they will suffer torturement [sic], beat and rude remark, nearly no payment (10 yuan [$1.50]/1 month)," it said.
The note claimed many of the people in the camp were "Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people".
The author of the note pleaded for help and asked whoever found it to forward it to the "World Human Rights Organization".
Human Rights Watch told The Oregonian this month that it could not confirm the authenticity of the note but "conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labour camps".
The Chinese government runs forced labour camps for criminals, which can include political dissidents, people imprisoned without trial and those who follow certain religions such as Falun Gong.
Sears Holdings Corporations, which operates Kmart, said it was looking into the matter, as did US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.
Author: Alys Francis. Approving editor: Fiona Willan.