Behind Cry for Help From China Labor Camp

Source: New York Times

Scrawling in wobbly English on a sheet of onionskin paper, the writer said he was imprisoned at a labor camp in this northeastern Chinese town, where he said inmates toiled seven days a week, their 15-hour days haunted by sadistic guards.

The letter drew international news media coverage and widespread attention to China’s opaque system of “re-education through labor,” a collection of penal colonies where petty criminals, religious offenders and critics of the government can be given up to four-year sentences by the police without trial.

“Sometimes the guards would drag me around by my hair or apply electric batons to my skin for so long, the smell of burning flesh would fill the room,” said Chen Shenchun, 55, who was given a two-year sentence for refusing to give up a petition campaign aimed at recovering unpaid wages from her accounting job at a state-owned factory.

According to former inmates, roughly half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground churches, with the rest a smattering of prostitutes, drug addicts and petitioners whose efforts to seek redress for perceived injustices had become an embarrassment for their hometown officials.

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