US children working in domestic tobacco fields regularly suffer from breathing problems, nausea and other ailments, an international rights group said in a report yesterday, urging the industry to develop tougher protections for its youngest workers.
Human Rights Watch, which documented working conditions for children in four US states, said it found many children on tobacco farms were in direct contact with the plant’s leaves, leading to serious ailments consistent with nicotine poisoning.
“I didn’t feel well, but I still kept working. I started throwing up,” said one 16-year-old worker, who worked pulling tops off of tobacco plants to help increase yields, according to Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 141 youths aged between seven and 17 working on tobacco farms in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
The group notified 10 tobacco companies of its findings, including Altria Group Inc, Lorillard Inc, Philip Morris International Inc and Reynolds American Inc, urging them to boycott tobacco from farms that do not have policies in place to protect workers younger than 18.
It also contacted other cigarette makers, as well as two tobacco leaf merchant companies, Alliance One International and Universal Corp.
“We want them to put strong child labor provisions into these contracts saying: ‘We won’t buy your tobacco unless you can assure us that you’re not using hazardous child labor,’” Jo Becker, the group’s top advocate for youth issues, told reporters.
The group said Philip Morris was already developing specific protections.
The company, which makes the popular Marlboro cigarette, said it was open to industry standards.
“Clearly there is opportunity to align,” Miguel Coleta, its director of external labor policies, told reporters.
Other companies said they were developing child labor policies or reviewing the report.
Still, no company explicitly prohibits those under the age of 18 from having contact with tobacco, Human Rights Watch said.
US Senator Tom Harkin, the chairman of the US Senate’s panel on health and labor issues, said in a statement that none of the companies’ policies were sufficient and that he would contact them in coming days.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting