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.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs