A few chinese who got into italy immediately set up sweat shops and began to illegally smuggle in 50,000 chinese workers to make fake chinese goods.

Do we wonder why now they are being so hard hit by virus? or was it their Hug a Chinese campaign ?

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Shen Jianhe lost both her job and home when Italian police shut down her garment factory in the Tuscan city of Prato.

By day, the 38-year-old mother of four would sew trousers at one of the nearly 5,000 workshops run by Chinese immigrants in Prato, which largely turn out cheap clothing for fast-fashion companies in Italy and across Europe.

Chinese immigrant workers in a factory in Prato | Source: Reuters

At night she slept in a plasterboard cubicle hidden behind a wooden wardrobe at the Shen Wu factory – until the police arrived one cold December morning. They sealed the doors and confiscated the 25 sewing machines under a crackdown on an industry that is booming but blighted by illegality and sweatshop conditions.

Amid rolls of fabric, food leftovers and dangling electric cables lay Shen’s belongings: a pink baby coat, a blue children’s stool, a laptop. She stuffed them into a van, ready to be transported away.

“What choice do I have?” said Shen, tears filling her eyes.

Prato, the historical capital of Italy’s textile business, has attracted the largest concentration of Chinese-run industry in Europe within less than 20 years.

As many as 50,000 Chinese live and work in the area, making clothes bearing the prized “Made in Italy” label which sets them apart from garments produced in China itself, even at the lower end of the fashion business.

In some ways, the Chinese community of Prato has succeeded where Italian companies have failed. Italy’s economy has barely grown over the past decade and is only just emerging from recession, partly due to the inability of many small manufacturers to keep up with global competition.

Yet Prato, which lies 25 km (16 miles) from the Renaissance jewel of Florence, is also a thriving hub of illegality committed by both Italians and Chinese, a byproduct of globalization gone wrong, many people in the city say.

Up to two thirds of the Chinese in Prato are illegal immigrants, according to local authorities. About 90 percent of the Chinese factories – virtually all of which are rented out to Chinese entrepreneurs by Italians who own the buildings -break the law in various ways, says Aldo Milone, the city councilor in charge of security.