A six-year-old girl found a plea for help written inside a Christmas card packed by inmates in a Chinese prison.

Florence Widdicombe from Tooting, south London, opened the box of Tesco charity Christmas cards and found a message inside one of the cards.

Written in capital letters inside a card with a Santa hat on the front, the note read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation.”

The boxes of charity Christmas cards will make more than £300,000 for British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK, reports the Sunday Times.

But the find focuses a spotlight on the grocery giant's suppliers potential use of forced prison labour.

Tesco said they had checked the factory where the cards are printed last month

The final line pleaded with whoever found the note to get in touch with Mr Peter Humphrey, a former British journalist who spent two years behind bars in China, nine of them at the same Qingpu prison.

Florence's dad contacted Mr Humphrey who believes the prisoner who wrote the note must have known him before his release from the prison in June 2015.

Mr Humphrey contacted other former prisoners and some confirmed they were forced to do manual work.

One ex-prisoner confirmed: “They have been packing Christmas cards for Tesco, and also Tesco gift tags, for at least two years."

“The foreign prisoners just package the cards. They pick different designs, put them into boxes, seal them and pack them into shipping cartons.”

The charity Christmas cards will raise thousands of pounds for UK charities [file image]

Tesco said the factory that produced the cards was suspended pending an investigation by an “expert in-country team” as soon as they were made aware of the note.

“We do not allow the use of prison labour in our supply chain," the statement added.

The spokesman also claimed the grocery giant had a “comprehensive auditing system in place” in China.

They said the factory where the cards were printed “was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest it had broken our rule banning the use of prison labour”.

This isn't the first time notes such as these have been found in goods in the west.

In 2012, a letter from an inmate at the Masanjia labour camp in Shenyang, China was found in a box of Halloween decorations in America.

Notes such as these have been found a number of times over the past few years [file image]

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It claimed they had to work 15 hours a day with no breaks under the threat of torture or beatings.

Another note was found in 2017 in Christmas charity cards sold at Sainsbury's.

Jessica Rigby of Braintree, Essex, found the note and once translated, it read: “Wishing you luck and happiness. Third product Shop, Guangzhou Prison, Number 6 District.”