Chinese factory in Zakumi row defends itself

A CHINESE factory ordered to stop producing mascots for the World Cup due to allegations of sweatshop conditions defended itself yesterday, saying its facilities were among the best in China.

A CHINESE factory ordered to stop producing mascots for the World Cup due to allegations of sweatshop conditions defended itself yesterday, saying its facilities were among the best in China.

Global Brands Group, the master licensee for all Fifa World Cup 2010 merchandise, said on Tuesday it had withdrawn manufacturing approval for the Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products after an audit showed standards had been flouted.

The Global Brands Group investigated the factory, which produced figures of the tournament's dreadlocked leopard mascot Zakumi, following reports that it employed teenage workers, ran 13-hour shifts and paid just three dollars a day.

"Considering China's actual conditions ... the environment in our factory, if not the best, is very good indeed," a company official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

The toy and gift manufacturer also produced merchandise for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and is a supplier for this year's World Expo in Shanghai, according to its website.

The company official confirmed production of the Zakumi toys had halted and said the company had been cooperating with Global Brands Group's investigation, which began last month.

The official said factory conditions would be improved to meet Global Brands' requirements.

She added that the Shanghai company was contracted to make the mascot last year. - Sapa-AFP

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