News / Asia

Chinese Dissident Aims to Raise Awareness of Laogai System in Tibet

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., right, listens as he and human rights activist Harry Wu, left, criticize the one-child rule in China, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2011.Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., right, listens as he and human rights activist Harry Wu, left, criticize the one-child rule in China, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2011.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., right, listens as he and human rights activist Harry Wu, left, criticize the one-child rule in China, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2011.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., right, listens as he and human rights activist Harry Wu, left, criticize the one-child rule in China, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, March 7, 2011.
WASHINGTON - Chinese and Tibetan human rights advocates are teaming up in Washington this week to raise awareness of the Chinese forced-labor prison camp system, known as laogai, and its use in Tibet.

The three-day conference starting Friday comes at a time when Tibet is making headlines for a rash of nearly 40 self immolations in protest of what some Tibetans say are repressive policies in southwestern China and the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

The laogai system is lesser known, but it’s a widely used form of repression, according to Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in a Chinese prison camp and is now the director of the Washington-based Laogai Research Foundation.

Wu said the laogai system has two functions: thought reform and forced labor. He says millions of Chinese have been held in the system since it was started in the 1950s.

While Wu has had some successes in raising awareness - the word “laogai” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 - he concedes there has not much U.S. interest in the issue, saying that human rights has taken a backseat to doing business in China.

He hopes that by linking the laogai system with the Tibet issue, which does have a somewhat higher profile in the United States, more people will become concerned with human rights abuses in China and Tibet.

The first day of the conference, which is co-sponsored by the International Campaign for Tibet, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, takes place on Capitol Hill and will feature testimonies from Tibetans formerly held in the laogai system, including Tsewang Dhondup, Tubten Khetsun, Dolkar Kyap and Lukar Sham. Also speaking will be U.S. Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chris Smith, as well as Lobsang Nyandak, a representative of the Dalai Lama.

“We have to understand what the laogai system has been doing since 1949. We have to expose the laogai system in Tibet even though it’s not a part of China,” Wu said.

China now refers to the laogai simply as the prison system administration. It does not publish formal information about its prison population, but the Justice Ministry estimated about 1.5 million people were behind bars in 2005, according to local media.

Bhuchung Tsering, the vice president of special programs at The International Campaign for Tibet, said publicizing firsthand stories from laogai survivors can help not only Chinese, but Tibetans, understand the the wider laogai system.

“The challenge is to see how we can continue to put this before the public’s attention,” said Tsering. “There are people in the United States who care about Tibet, there is bipartisan support for Tibet. There will be a different perspective when they see Tibet as part of the laogai framework.”

A complete schedule of events can be seen here.

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This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: HTC from: USA
June 10, 2012 9:47 PM
@Jonathan Huang: Are you a Chinese who lives in Canada? Or Do you live in China and use Canada location to hide your identity? We all need to be sincere, frank to express our comment on this forum. Thank you.

by: Nguyễn from: US
June 09, 2012 4:22 PM
This is how Vietnam going to be when occupied by Chinese. Yes, China is so determined to capture Vietnam for food and natural resources, like oil and gas, sea food that China is very hungry for.

by: Michael Gayer from: USA
June 09, 2012 11:38 AM
China has been for a long time out to destroy what it cannot control. Tibetans, a long proud race have withstood the influx of China's dominance over their way of life for Centuries. Not till the Modern Day did the Chinese have the Ability to conquer Tibet. Now they wish to remove all beliefs in God and Religion from this nation. Like Ovomit and the Democrats are here.

by: Anonymous
June 09, 2012 1:34 AM
sheer nonsense

by: Anonymous
June 09, 2012 1:08 AM
I'm shame of my name "Wu". Why you say the Tibet is not a part of China? Show the evidence. Please read the history of China, it will tell you the truth.Thank you.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 08, 2012 6:54 PM
First of all, Tibet belongs to China, it is accepted by UN, so obey the international laws, and admit Tibet belongs to China!
Compare to the local prison system which wastes tax payers money and allows those criminals enjoy their jail lives, China's laogai system is must better! those criminals should learn to work and feed themselves then they will give up doing violence.

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 08, 2012 10:33 AM
First of all, Tibet is not part of China. No Tibetan (who is free of the CCP) believes Tibet is or was part of China. Second, China's sovereignty claim over Tibet does not mean the CCP can violate the human rights of Tibetans. No govt can. Tibetans have basic civil rights & the CCP ignores those rights by arbitrarily imprisoning Tibetans for their religious/political views & torturing Tibetan prisoners. Only the CCP & their 50 Cent Gang want to deny freedom & liberty to Tibetans.

by: Anonymous
June 08, 2012 4:02 AM
Protection of Human rights,is a long-term topic comes from many countries of the world,espically in developed country.In China it is so difficult to implement,even thoug law existence in the country,but Bureaucracy...
Citizens always hope the human rights develop in a fair way.In some way,just to be useful for the powerful man.

by: Anonymous
June 07, 2012 8:31 PM
Tibet is part of China, that's as clear as day.

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