News / Asia

Chinese Leaders Pledge Labor Camp Reforms

Chinese Leaders Pledge Labor Camp Reformsi
X
March 28, 2013 3:13 PM
China’s new leaders have vowed to reform the country’s notorious, decades-old labor camp system before the end of the year. But there are still few details about what changes are planned. Shannon Van Sant reports from Beijing that any reform efforts face significant challenges.
Shannon Van Sant
China’s new leaders have vowed to reform the country’s notorious, decades-old labor camp system before the end of the year. But there are still few details about what changes are planned. Any reform efforts face significant challenges.

They are called laojiao in Mandarin: China’s extensive gulag system, where police can order people held for up to four years at a time without trial in a court of law.  China’s government labels this form of punishment "re-education through labor".

Liu Jie, who spent a year and a half in a labor camp, says they are a form of torture.

“People in the labor camp are forced to be drudges.  We work for 14 to 16 hours a day, and if you can’t finish the work your prison term will be longer,” she said.

The Communist Party created the laojiao system in the 1950s to punish counterrevolutionaries.  Today the camps house an estimated 200,000 prostitutes, drug addicts, religious and political dissidents as well as people like Liu, who signed a public petition demanding political and legal reforms.

She was forced to manufacture holiday decorations and toothpicks. After complaining about her treatment, Liu says camp guards bound her to a chair.

“In the evening they brought me to the small room in the basement by stealth and subjected me to cruel torture," she said.  "They tied me up on a torture rack and tortured me for seven days and nights.  They put me on a bed which was for dead people, and fastened my hands. Then I fell asleep.”

Pressure to reform the labor camp system has been building, with more victims like Liu speaking out about their experiences.  In Yunnan Province labor camps now only house drug addicts.   

But the Chinese government spends more than $100 billion each year on internal security and the labor camps have played a key role in silencing critics. Human rights lawyers like Li Fanping say it’s unlikely they will be shut down any time soon.

“I think it is very difficult for the ruling party and the government to abolish the re-education through labor system because they don’t want to give up such a frightening and effective method of social control.  Therefore, I think it is very likely that the system will be amended, but not abolished, in the coming few years,” Li said.

Adding to difficulty of reform is the fact that some camps have become highly profitable. Local officials earn money from the goods produced by camp labor and reportedly demand bribes from inmates hoping for release.

Despite the challenges, Liu Jie and her family remain optimistic that Beijing will make changes that end their fear of being abruptly returned to the notorious camps.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs