Olympics tarnished by child-labor charges? | VailDaily.com

Olympics tarnished by child-labor charges?

Stephen Wade
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

BEIJING ” The Olympic image could be damaged by allegations that children as young as 12 are being employed to make official-licensed products for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

That’s the message Wednesday from Chen Feng, deputy director of marketing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, who has summoned four manufacturers to Beijing to answer charges of labor-law violations in the making of Olympic goods.

A report released Sunday entitled “No Medal for the Olympics on Labor Rights” alleges four factories in southern China broke national labor laws on child labor, overtime pay and minimum wages to make souvenirs for the 2008 Olympics.

The four manufactures acknowledge they have Olympic contracts, but deny charges in the report by Brussels-based PlayFair 2008. The report also says the Beijing organizers ” and the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee ” are doing too little to guarantee ethical work conditions in the making of official products that carry the five-ring Olympic logo.

Feng said he planned to meet Wednesday with representatives of the four companies. Li Zhanjun, director of the BOCOG media center, said it would be several days before any findings might be released.

“We don’t want them (makers of Olympic products) to damage the Olympic image,” Feng said.

“We want them to realize that their performance in terms of corporate responsibility, environmental protection and quality control has a lot to do with the image of the Olympics, and the reputation of the Olympic games.”

Feng said there was a “huge gap between the report and what the businesses told us. They have told us they did not employ child labor at all.”

Feng, repeating threats made earlier by Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said contracts would be terminated if violations were found.

“We will continue our investigation until we find the truth,” Feng said. “If we find any problems, we will severely punish those violators.”

PlayFair’s report ” in addition to the actual charges ” has drawn attention to the vast wealth gap in China. Beijing is spending at least $40 billion to modernize the city for the Olympics, a sharp contrast to the legal minimum wage in southern China of $90 monthly.

Feng also promised a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit Olympic merchandise which, like fake DVDs and knockoffs of designer goods, is for sale on hundreds of street corners in Beijing.

“We really have taken notice of the problem,” Feng said. “Some cases constitute criminal offenses and we will take legal action to tackle them.”

“Those (counterfeit Olympic) products are all provided by unauthorized businesses because we have strict controls on the authorized businesses. If the authorized businesses sells to an unauthorized buyer, that would be a serious violation of the contract and we would severely penalize them.”

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