China Camp Closures Prompt Calls for Compensation
China Camp Closures Prompt Calls for Compensation

In response to enormous pressure from inside and outside China, the Communist Party last year made it official: it was going to abolish the system of re-education through labor camps that it has used to punish dissidents since the 1950s. 

But if it wanted that to be the end of the story, victims have something else in mind. They’re using the decision, and the labor camp closures, to argue for compensation for the abuses they suffered in the past. 

Most prominently, in the past week former detainees from the Masanjia Women’s Forced Labor Camp, one of the most brutal in China, have launched a petition campaign, online and on foot, calling for their abuses to be redressed. 

Notoriety

The name Masanjia gained international notoriety in 2012 when a woman from Oregon found a note from an enslaved labor camp worker slipped into her box of graveyard-style Halloween toys. Astonished and shaken, she took the letter to the press. 

“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product,” it said in imperfect English, “please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

The note continued: “People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark.”

Before the bout of publicity triggered by the letter, abuses in Masanjia had been going on for over a decade. Most heavily targeted were practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that is persecuted by the Chinese regime. A striking variety of cruel torture methods were devised and deployed on victims, before being disseminated to the labor camp system across China and used on other detainees. 

Word that Masanjia was being shut down trickled out in recent months. A CNN reporter visiting the camp in late October referred to it as “empty,” with no guards, and no prisoners. Minghui, a Falun Gong website, also reported its imminent closure in August last year. 

Compensation

A range of victims have now stepped forward and attempted to sue for compensation. 

Chinese Human Rights Defenders recorded the case of Zhu Guiqin, a petitioner who traveled to Beijing on Dec. 30.  She was intercepted, searched, and sent back to Fushun city in Liaoning. 

A group of victims from Liaoning, where Masanjia is located, traveled to Beijing in mid-December to protest.

Hao Wei, one of the victims, told New Tang Dynasty Television: “We originally planned to go to court instead of petitioning, but the court didn’t place the case on file.”

Hao has joined together with three other victims, and they posted their “announcement for request of compensation” online. 

They question the grounds for their being detained, and say the conditions of their detention violated even China’s official laws on how labor camp detainees should be treated. 

“The state regulates that detainees have 3 hours of study time a day, but we didn’t have it. We worked overtime everyday. The state regulates 6 hours of working a day, but we all worked more than 9 hours a day. Another thing is a lot of physical abuse there,” Hao Wei said to NTD Television.

The response from the Chinese regime has been to stonewall and send the complainants through its bureaucratic labyrinth. 

“We went to several justice departments to petition, but they told us that they don’t acknowledge the media report about Masanjia earlier this year,” Hao said. “They said it was the Liaoning government’s responsibility.” The justice department, which sits under the local government, administers the labor camps. 

Jiang Tianyong, a civil rights lawyers who has for years worked on cases brought by victims of the Communist Party’s domestic security system, said that the Party’s system of “stability maintenance,” which justified the use of labor camps, has been consistent throughout the system. 

“Local departments have always followed the orders from the Politics and Legal Affairs Committee at the center,” he said. 

The efforts to call attention to abuses and gain compensation are helpful anyway, said Renee Xia, the international director at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a grassroots NGO, in a telephone interview.

“It’s good for those cases if they can push through and try different ways and to get attention and see how the government responds,” she said. 

She recalled an anecdote — not to be taken as a statement of policy — about a petitioner being told by a local policeman, on the subject of compensation: “Don’t even think about it, we have an order from above, we’re not going to give any labor camp victims compensation.” 

Xia said: “Who knows if there’s a higher order or not. People should just keep pushing.” 

  • AskandTell

    Wow…in case you missed the nuance of this story, a woman in Oregon brought a box of Halloween toys from Kmart which was packaged at the Masanjia Women’s Forced Labor Camp. A worker at the labor camp secretly enclosed a note in the box asking for help.

    • geezer 56

      My God.

    • http://is.gd/dFTlUQ RF Dude

      Thanks for posting the link to this story, Ask.

    • cal haughtly

      Terrible story that should receive wider coverage. Of course, our friends on the right would say ‘if it weren’t for K-Mart what would they do for work.”

    • Sharyn G.

      That’s amazing!

  • Classical_Gas

    Quite the story. The women in the camp are so fortunate that the note was found by someone who took it seriously.

    On the other glaring topic – cheap plastic cr*p, made by slave labor. The dream of big business.

  • Gin1234

    I remember reading about this somewhere, but not about the women being free. I don’t have a good idea about how things are in China, I guess. I would think that they would not be able to protest and carry on their campaign as openly as they appear to be doing without being stopped by the government. I just hate buying anything from China, for fear of what is in it, and who made it, along with my continuing resentment against the corporations in this country who have damaged the job market in this country, as well as used the people in China to make their products at very low wages. I wish anyone there who has courage the best in their fighting against the situation they are in. It looks as though for once someone here, helped them.

    • cal haughtly

      That is why I buy American.

      • Gin1234

        I buy American when I can find American. In some areas, American made is not possible to find.

        • AskandTell

          I agree. Walmart was set to open stores in India but the government made it a condition that Walmart source 20% of their products from India. Walmart said no and walked away. That is how committed Walmart is to Chinese products.

          • cal haughtly

            Then again, didn’t Brazil tell Apple that if you don’t make it here good luck selling it here? India did the right thing and won’t be missing much.

          • Gin1234

            Earlier this year, Walmart made a big deal about how many millions of dollars they were committing to to buy and sell some products that are made in the United States. This was when they were getting a lot of crap about their Chinese Connections. I heard that once, and then nothing about it again. I noticed around Christmas, they were also putting out television ads having various people tell about how Walmart was paying for their education, and one guy said that he was just hired by WM a few months ago, and now he is a manager already. Did you see those? Walmart is feeling a llittle bit of heat, and they are trying to manipulate the views of the public to feel sympathy for them.

          • AskandTell

            Walmart is more worried about pension funds suing/dropping them for their human rights violations and unethical business practices. I believe Denmark already dropped them from their pension funds for human rights violations. They are definitely not a nice company especially outside of the US and are feeling disdain overseas for trying to pull the same sh** they have done here. Closing down competitors and driving down wages.

          • Gin1234

            That’s right. It is the wage issue for their own workers here, too , that has been driving some of the things I mentioned above. Some of their workers protested a few months ago, and brought it to the public’s attention. I think in the US the concerns with them are more about the impact they have on our own economy with buying all their stuff from China, and the way that they treat their workers here rather than human rights issues. It affects our own human rights to a big extent the way they do business, too.

          • AskandTell

            There is a document I saved somewhere that details the human rights violations within and outside the US. And you are right, Walmart is a company who’s lobbyists come from the Bush administration and now Blanche Lincoln; bottom line they receive special treatment.

        • cal haughtly

          That is so true…I have an I-phone. I try to ask myself if I really need it if it isn’t made here and I always choose American if there is a choice.

          • AskandTell

            And now all Apple products will be made with Koch Industries electronic components after their acquisition of Molex.

          • cal haughtly

            Lisle based Molex?

          • AskandTell
          • cal haughtly

            Huh…things keep changing out there. Indian Hill became Lucent, Tellabs off shored engineering, Rockwell /Wescom was bought by Boeing….now this.

          • AskandTell

            I couldn’t believe Rockwell let themselves be bought out by Boeing. I worked in the past for Honeywell Aerospace and used to be immersed in that world. Left just about the time they were moving down to Juarez.

          • cal haughtly

            I used to visit Bell Labs at Indian Hill quite often….used to drive by a big Molex sign on my way from the hotel. I can’t believe Bell is gone and Lucent isn’t doing basic research. All change isn’t positive.

          • cal haughtly

            What did you do at Honeywell?

          • AskandTell

            I’m in HR.

          • cal haughtly

            I sort of suspected that.

          • AskandTell

            Why is that?

          • cal haughtly

            You have business sense…understood co-op, professional, excellent communicator. I have no business sense, took technical writing in college and like loud shirts. So, I guessed you were from the business side of the fence….thought maybe marketing or something related.

          • AskandTell

            Thanks Cal. If I remember correctly, you’re an engineer (what discipline?) and OD?

          • cal haughtly

            Yep…electrical. Also took the course work for a BSIE-though it wasn’t offered as a major where I went to undergrad. They didn’t do ‘imaginary engineers.”

          • AskandTell

            So…my favorite people are BSEE, MSEE, BSCS, BSCE, with specialties in embedded, RF, firmware, low level programming with UDP communication protocols up to high level Java.

            I’m showing off….smile.

          • cal haughtly

            Yikes….you might be the only person in the world that calls them “my favorite people” and hasn’t died of boredom

          • AskandTell

            I’ve worked with engineers and techies my entire career and love the environment and industries. It is fascinating and real; I loved the aerospace industry and then moved into energy automation. I’ll never look at the grid the same way again after understanding what exactly is going on with those poles and lines.

            Love the managers and their taking the time for me to understand the technology at a high level and so I can better understand and help them with comp, hiring, etc. The super nerds surrounded by their boards who don’t like to speak….not too crazy about them.

          • cal haughtly

            Energy automation as in house by house or something bigger in scale? National smart grid kind of stuff?

          • AskandTell

            Yup; smart grid. Both on the consumer side (meters that are sending and receiving data to/from the utility and controlling demand) to grid maintenance (voltage regulators, security, preventing leakage/volt variance).

            Tea party folks have been effective in some states in a scare campaign basically saying that the meters are tracking us and up to no good. Too bad, the utilities are horrible at marketing. The idea was that you could sign on to your utility and track your energy usage and be empowered to see appliances that are consuming too much energy and either turn them off more frequently or see the cost savings of replacing. But now…they have let groups change the story of Big Brother knows when you are taking a shower.

            Most of the big business infrastructure projects are overseas.

          • cal haughtly

            I have read some on how people respond to seeing their energy use decline(habit forming) -fascinating stuff. Do you sense that the Tea Party is resisting change out of self informed spite or is some dark energy industry force behind it? The Tea Party should read how well others(Germany for one) are doing with solar and getting electricity to the light switch.

          • AskandTell

            As I said the utilities aren’t good at marketing and set themselves up. There was a lot of stimulus money that was available to the utilities for smart grid; stipulation being that jobs were created and /or energy savings. Instead of installing smart meters first (which doesn’t save consumers money in the short term), they should have invested in grid technology which helps them get ready for wind and solar panels.

            Instead, many invested in meters because it was easier to make a decision (RF vs power line communication) and charged the customers for the meters. Because utilities are getting daily metering data instead of estimating usage, many people actually were charged more. So customers hear about this great automation and see their bills get higher.

            Vendors get so frustrated by the utilities and their dumb moves. So the Tea Party jumped in and said..they are screwing us and who knows what else they are doing without telling us (PG&E has had a lot of backlash). They have a captive audience because lots of folks feel mislead and don’t understand what is going on. Not just US but Canada too.

          • cal haughtly

            I have lived In a town that was supposed to get those new meters, one brochure and never heard much more about it(though they weren’t the really very smart meters-there was concern about micro wave radiation from the kind of people that put their face up against the glass to watch popcorn being made). I hadn’t read about the bill going up for those that got one. That is not good news.
            Not surprised we didn’t do the first thing first. 30 years from now we might still have nuclear power, a grid from the 60’s and a calamity from fracking. I would rather phase out nuclear, skip the calamity and have a first world power grid. I like alternative energy…one of my newest hobbies is trying to design a portable, off the grid home. Love architecture and the great outdoors.

          • Gin1234

            Name just about any area, and it is hard to find American made. A place that I have found some stuff lately though, is of all places, Dollar Tree. I bought some drinking glasses there, that were made in one of the remaining glass factories in the country in Virginia or W. Virginia. I can’t remember the name,. but I recognized it right away. I have since checked some of their other glass and it is marked made in America, too. Try finding that in other stores. It is pretty hard to do.

          • cal haughtly

            I also find it a challenge…I’ll check out Dollar Tree. There are some made In America websites…haven’t had much luck there.

          • AskandTell

            I did the same thing Gin. I was looking for drinking glasses and Target’s were all made in China. The Dollar Store is next store and found three made in the US and the fourth identical one was made in (can’t remember country). I began to question really where were they made. I was so frustrated that I can’t find a darn product made in the US almost smashed a glass on the floor.

            Does Ikea make their products in Sweden or mostly China? Found glasses I like there and planned on hopping over there later this week.

          • Gin1234

            That’s interesting that an identical one was made somewhere else. Maybe the idea of glass being made in the US was too good to be true. If I can’t find it from this country, I figure the next best thing is from any other country that supposedly has acceptable standards besides China.

        • apogee2perogee

          Whole classes of things are nearly impossible to find as “Made in America”. Electronics are particularly difficult.

          • AskandTell

            “Made in the US” is also a tricky business especially electronics. For example, in order to receive government tax credits here and in Canada, a company will make the product overseas with components from around the world.

            They will then ship the product to the US and Canada where a small staff tinkers with the product to satisfy the “made in xxxx” specifications to receive the tax credit.

          • apogee2perogee

            I have a very hard time trying to find anyone even trying to pass off such false labeling. oooh, I said that poorly. I find so few electronic items labeled US that I imagine even such false labeling is exceedingly rare in that category.

  • apogee2perogee

    Makes me think twice about buying more ‘stuff’. I have to wonder if there would be fewer slaves and fewer manipulated and abused workers IF we bought less stuff.

  • AskandTell

    From CNN Interview

    “Sears, the company that owns Kmart, also responded when asked how products in a labor camp in China ended up on its store shelves. “We found no evidence that production was subcontracted to a labor camp during our investigation,” it said, but added it no longer sources from this company.”

    It’s doubtful they didn’t know; as with Walmart and The Gap, they act like they have no idea how their products are made when confronted with the human rights violations.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/world/asia/china-labor-camp-halloween-sos/

    • Canukistani

      I think it’s more of this ‘if we don’t see it we don’t have to do anything about it’ nonsense. They conduct the most superficial investigation thet can get away with and then they claim credit for trying to be diligent. The only thing they’ve been diligent about is CYA.

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