American teacher spends 7 months in Chinese jail enduring forced labour

Stuart Foster, a 49-year-old American sociology professor, spent more than seven months in a jail in southern China, where he was forced to assemble Christmas lights for export to the US.

Stuart Foster spent more than seven months inside a Chinese jail, assembling Christmas lights for export to the US
Stuart Foster spent more than seven months inside a Chinese jail, assembling Christmas lights for export to the US

Foster, who had been teaching at a Guangzhou university, was arrested and taken to the White Cloud District Detention Center last April, after confessing to taking a large sum of money from his American colleague. For the next 280 days he shared a cell about the “size of a racquetball court” with around 30 other men. Days were spent assembling thousands of Christmas lights, where productivity was maintained by fear of being beat by a guard wielding a make-shift whip constructed from the Christmas light wires.

NPR recently interviewed Foster:

… “There were no chairs, there were no beds. We slept on the concrete floor, and most people didn’t even have a sheet and certainly no pillows. It was so crowded that most inmates had to sleep on their side.”

In the morning, Foster says, he and his mostly Chinese cellmates would spend an hour marching in place and then begin work putting together Christmas lights.

“They would bring in large, industrial plastic bags that had the components that would be assembled,” Foster recalls. “Each prisoner would get their quota, and inmates would line the walls or they would sit in circles just on the floor, assembling lights to sockets.”

The detention center didn’t provide uniforms. So inmates worked in just their underwear during the hot summer months, he says. Foster was stunned that Chinese officials put him in a cell where he participated in and witnessed forced labor.


  1. You steal, you go to prison. And this guy stole from a fellow American!
    Making people like Foster into “China Expat Celebrities” is a bit much. It’s almost an invitation for people like him to do time in order to write a book about the experience. No thanks.

    • It was 7 months, not 7 years. And depending on how many copies said book sells it could very well be worth it.

      Also, sitting on your arse all day putting together christmas lights isn’t nearly as strenuous as the term “forced labor” implies.

      Now if he was out in the sun making big rocks into little rocks, then that label would be fitting.

  2. The university must not be paying him a lot or his friend’s money was alot to ignore. Either way i doubt this guy will be doing any stealing anytime soon.

    • No American trash here, just ask them.

      They will never learn that cultures are going to be different to theirs and it’s not a God given right for them to demand all cultures be the same as theirs while they are in that Country.

      You would think that with all the American business failures here compared to the success of German businesses for example, that they would figure out that something isn’t working out for them and that it may just be them and not the rest of the World.

  3. I doubt anybody will ever read this. I was Stuart’s friend in Guangzhou. He didn’t just randomly take money from his colleague. He was first involved in an accident. He was riding his bike and hit his head. In the days following that incident he was acting strangely. I heard he was missing and when I went to his dorm it was taped up by the police. He is a victim, not a criminal

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲