Reports that illegally imported clothes may be of unsanitary origins

Updated 2017-01-19 09:22:06 Global Times

Secondhand clothes are illegally smuggled into China and are sold online as "vintage items," China Central Television (CCTV) reported Saturday.

"Some of the clothes were taken off dead people… they are stained with blood, just wash it with your washing machine," a person working in the clothes recycling industry said to an undercover CCTV reporter in Lufeng, South China's Guangdong Province.

Dubious origins

Vintage foreign clothes are trendy among many young people in China.

On e-commerce site Taobao, older secondhand clothes, including shirts, dresses, sweaters and jackets are priced from 20 yuan () to hundreds of yuan. Some shops even have "lucky bags" of shoes, for which customers can pay 30 yuan and receive a random pair of shoes in their size.

Usually each item is unique, and only one is available.

"The clothes may have some flaws. If you are perfectionist, please do not buy," said the introduction of a Taobao vintage clothes shop. The store has sold more than 100 vintage sweaters from Japan, and most customers are satisfied with their items.

But the Global Times reporter found that none of the sellers where they get the clothes.

The Nanfang Daily claimed in November 2016 that those "vintage clothes" might be of dubious origin.

Some clothes are donated or taken from deceased people, and are then washed, restored and new brand labels are attached, according to the CCTV report.

"My friend bought one item of such clothing, which was very attractive. But he then found a suicide note in the pocket," user of Q&A website Zhihu "this dog" claimed.

"The styles are fresh, and I cannot get them in any other shop, so it does not matter their clothes have no brand labels," explained a student who shops in the "overseas waste clothes" market in Nanchang, capital of East China's Jiangxi Province, local Morning News reported.

Meanwhile, some elderly citizens would love to buy the "overseas waste clothes" as it can be very cheap, the Morning News said.

Customs action

According to a 2015 Ministry of Environmental Protection statement, "waste clothes" and other fabrics are not allowed to be imported to China.

As early as 1999, the Beijing police seized and destroyed around 15,000 pieces of imported "waste" clothing.

In June and September 2016, border guards in Shenzhen, Guangdong, intercepted and seized more than 1,000 tons of smuggled clothes. In November, 441 tons of these clothes were destroyed, local newspaper the Guangzhou Daily reported.

Wei Fang, a doctor at the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the smuggled clothes can contain disease pathogens, whic could "enter human bodies through organs such as skin and mouth."

Clothes stained with blood are particularly likely to pass on infections, Wei noted.

He also said that the chemicals with which these clothes are treated can irritate some people's skin.

According to anonymous "insiders" quoted by CCTV, some of these clothes come from hospitals and funeral parlors in countries including Japan, South Korea and the US. CCTV did not reveal any details about these insiders identities or their connection to the secondhand clothes industry.

According to the Morning News, Jieshi, under Lufeng, has become the biggest market for smuggled clothes in recent years, selling clothes which are illegally imported from Vietnam, through South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to Jieshi, before being transported to other regions of China.

According to the Guangzhou-based news portal xkb.com.cn, Hong Kong is also a transfer point for these clothes.

Collecting the clothes costs next to nothing, and people can sell the clothes in China for 1,000 yuan per ton, according to xkb.com.cn.

Worship money

"The disposal of overseas waste can damage the earth, water and air as well as human beings, so many advanced countries would export their waste instead of dealing with it on their own land," Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology and expert on China's social problems, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, to earn profits, some people in China still illegally import "waste" products, Hu said, noting that some local governments, in order to boost local GDP, turn a blind eye or even encourage such criminal behavior.

"However, people that worship money and have a weak environmental awareness make it hard to eliminate overseas waste," Hu noted.

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