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British supermarket giant Tesco suspended a Chinese supplier of Christmas cards on Sunday after a press report said a customer discovered a message written inside a card showing it had been packed by foreign prisoners who were victims of forced labour.

"We hate the use of prison labour and would never allow it in our supply chain," a Tesco spokesman said on Sunday (Dec 22).

"We were shocked by these allegations and immediately suspended the factory where these cards are manufactured and launched an investigation. We have also withdrawn these cards from sale while we investigate."

Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, donates £300,000 (US$390,000) per annum from the sale of the cards to the charitiesBritish Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK. The cards were produced at the Zheijiang Yunguang Printing factory, which is about 100km from Shanghai Qingpu prison, Tesco said.

The company, which prints cards and books for food and pharmaceutical companies, says on its website it supplies Tesco.

The Sunday Times said the message inside the card read: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization."

The message inside the card was found by a 6-year-old girl, Florence Widdicombe, in London, the Sunday Times said. Humphrey was contacted by Her father via the LinkedIn social network.

Providing in Sunday Times, Humphrey said he was not aware about the identities or the nationalities of the prisoners who put the note into the card, but he "had no doubt they are Qingpu prisoners who knew me before my liberation in June 2015 from the suburban prison where I spent 2 years almost".

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