An Unexpected Encounter With ‘Hell on Earth’

April 10, 2013 Updated: April 23, 2013

Originally he’d only planned to speak for five minutes, about the recently-concluded Boao economic forum. But as he began recalling the details of torture recently revealed in a Chinese magazine article, well-known television host Cao Baoyin went on for over 20. 

“Curse the Boao forum!” Cao said at the beginning of the video, using an actual Chinese curse word. He had just read the article after coming home from his day job on April 9, and needed to speak out. Cao is a television personality and a columnist for Beijing News, a major newspaper in the capital.

At a number of points in his talk he visibly struggled to hold back tears. At one point he held up a board that he’d written a number of the main torture methods on.

“Hell on earth,” he had titled it. He announced the techniques one by one: “Small room,” “inmate-monitors,” “electric shocks,” “death bed,” “tiger bench,” while rapping on each with his Chinese fan.

“Behind every word there’s blood, inhumanity, lawlessness, immorality, and naked barbarism,” he said, before elaborating on specifically how Chinese communist prison guards use the “hanging an airplane” torture against inmates in the Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp.

Cao was one of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese to read and react to a recent article about that labor camp, published in the Chinese magazine Lens, which is known for its photography. 

The article detailed the brutal torture methods applied against inmates, most of whom are practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual discipline that has been persecuted since 1999. The article did not mention Falun Gong—the persecution of the spiritual practice is off limits for China’s media. 

The fact that the piece was published at all was stunning to many. Masanjia is known to have devised many of the extreme torture methods used to break the wills of Falun Gong practitioners, and then taught them to other labor camps.

Cao Baoyin spoke about how prisoners who go on hunger strikes are treated. “They tie them to a ‘death bed’ and use metal pliers to force open their mouths. Some of the victims have their teeth knocked out because of that. Even some of the workers ask for the day shift, so they don’t have to witness it when it happens at night.”

He became agitated and focused on the camera: “The ‘death bed,’ that’s really going to kill people. But in this women’s labor camp, if you die they don’t even care. They think the prisoners’ lives are worth less than flies. Women do this to other women, except that because some of them wear a uniform they can act like beasts, doing this crazy torture. Are these still people? Even beasts don’t do this to one another. When you hear all this, can you say it’s not hell on earth?!”

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