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Hong Kong Christians demand minimum standards for Olympic suppliers


A Christian labour activist in Hong Kong has urged Beijing to ensure that factories producing merchandise for the Olympic Games to be held in the Chinese capital in 2008 meet basic labour standards.

"The labour problem is not just limited to games merchandisers, it is a widespread issue," Rev. Hans Lutz, chairperson of the Christian Industrial Committee, told Ecumenical News International following the release of a report that accused Chinese factories of employing child labour, and of unsafe working conditions.

The 11 June report by the PlayFair 2008 campaign alleged that several Chinese factories supplying goods under license for the Beijing Olympics were violating basic labour standards. The practices highlighted included adult wages at half the legal minimum, the employment of workers as young as 12 years old, and employees made to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

PlayFair 2008 is an international campaign that promotes respect for workers’ rights in the global sporting goods industry, in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics. The companies named by PlayFair have rejected the accusations.

"Games merchandisers promise that they will abide by domestic laws in China. It is immoral for them to break their promise," said Lutz, a Swiss missionary who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 30 years.

Staphany Wong, a researcher and campaign coordinator at the Hong Kong office of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the organizers of the Beijing games should set up mechanisms to ensure that manufacturers and suppliers of merchandise include labour standards in their daily operations.

But she said the organizers of the games should not break contracts with manufacturers violating labour standards. "Such an act will harm the workers," Wong told Ecumenical News International. "The games organizers should stay in the factories and help in solving the problems."

(c) Ecumenical News International