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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Olympic firm admits child labour
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

 Michael Lee, manager of Lekit
Mr Lee insisted Lekit did not know that children were being hired
A Chinese company making products related to the Beijing Olympics has admitted it used child workers, despite initially denying the allegation.

Lekit Stationery said children aged 12 and 13 were employed by one of its sub-contractors, although they did not work on Olympic-related products.

The news follows an investigation in Dongguan city, where Lekit is based.

It was launched after an advocacy group claimed four firms making Olympic products were exploiting workers.

Lekit manager Michael Lee told the BBC that a sub-contractor called Leter Stationery had hired a number of children in the school holidays last winter.

They were each paid 20 yuan (about $2.50) a day.

'Unaware'

Because it had a large number of orders, Lekit was forced to hire Leter Stationary to make packaging products, such as labels.

Mr Lee insisted these products were not related to the contract it won last year to produce stationery emblazoned with Olympic symbols.

"We didn't know that they would hire children," Mr Lee said, although the sub-contractor's factory is directly opposite Lekit Stationary.

Chinese shoppers view Olympic merchandise
China hopes to make huge profits on Olympic merchandise
He added: "We will not use them again, and in future we will make sure that all sub-contractors are qualified."

Mr Lee, from Taiwan, said when he was initially interviewed about the allegation by the BBC at his factory he was unaware Leter Stationery had hired children.

He found out only when Dongguan officials released the findings of an initial investigation into the issue.

A Dongguan official said the children had gone to work at Leter Stationery because their parents had no time to look after them during the holidays.

He said they were only involved in "light work" such as wrapping up products.

"The Dongguan government (will) start a campaign to fight child labour in the city soon," said a report published by Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The report that made the initial allegation, issued by an alliance called PlayFair 2008, said Lekit had hired children who often had to work from 0730 to 2230.

"Some of them were brought to the factory to earn money to pay their school fees," the report says.

It also accused three other factories based in southern Guangdong Province of exploiting workers.

They were charged with ignoring local labour laws, disregarding health and safety and forcing employees to work long hours.

The speed with which Dongguan officials published the results of the initial investigation suggests China is keen to avoid bad publicity in the run up to next year's Olympic Games.




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