Unknown numbers of people have been held as slave laborers in China’s “Laogai” (labor reform camps). Human rights organizations claim that Falon Gong practitioners are often targeted for arrest, along with ethnic minorities, Catholics, Protestants, and Tibetans. By some estimates around 100,000 Falon Gong practitioners have been sent to the Laogai. Ying was one of these individuals. A student in France, she was imprisoned in 2000 while visiting her family in China.
I was imprisoned between November 2000 and November 2001 for refusing to give up Falun Gong practice. During that period of time, I was held in servitude at the Beijing Tuanhe Prisoner Dispatch Center and the Beijing Xin’an Forced Labor Camp in Beijing. While there, I was forced to do slave labor. I was forced to make various types of slave labor products.
(1) Beijing Tuanhe Prisoner Dispatch Center
(a) Packaged large quantities of disposable chopsticks. Most of them are being used in restaurants and hotels while some are being exported.
(b) Made “Florance Gift Package.”
(2) Beijing Xin’an Labor Camp
(a) Packaged large quantities of disposable chopsticks. Most of them are being used in restaurants and hotels while some of them are being exported.
(b) Knitted sweaters.
(c) Knitted woolen gloves (60 Yuan per pair, exported to Europe).
(d) Crocheted cushions for tea sets.
(e) Crocheted hats for a company at Qinghe Township, Beijing. Knitted seat cushions.
(f) Re-processed sweaters; removed sundries from yarn.
(g) Made large quantities of slippers. The job was mainly gluing the sole and the instep together, and the labor camp demanded a high quality product. When I was there, it was the hottest time of the summer. Many practitioners and I were working in our prison cells. Working in a humid prison cell full of irritating glue odors was suffocating. We worked until midnight or one o’clock in the morning every time there was a shipment.
(h) Made stuffed animals such as rabbits, bears, dolphins, and penguins, etc. Major steps included putting the stuffing material inside, stitching the doll together, sewing the eyes, and stitching the mouth, etc.
The Sanitation and Living Conditions of the Forced Labor Camp
(1) Beijing Tuanhe Prisoner Dispatch Center
I was locked up with over a dozen Falun Gong practitioners in a cell that was about 12 square meters (130 square feet) in size. There were only eight bunk beds in the room; thus, some of us had to sleep on the floor. While we were sleeping, we had to keep our heads visible to the guards. We did everything in this cell including working, eating, drinking, and using the toilet; therefore, there were many flies and mosquitoes. At the dispatch center, we were only allowed to eat at certain times. Water was rationed; drinking water was limited. The prison guards never allowed us to wash our hands before meals. After a meal, we had to get back to work immediately. Twice a day, we were given five minutes for personal hygiene. When the time was up, we were forced to stop and drain the water. We were not allowed to take any water back to our cell. If we could not finish the work assigned to us, we were not allowed to clean ourselves. When there was a rush to get products out, we had to work late and go to sleep without washing.
There were fixed times for the whole group of practitioners to go and use the toilet. Even then, we still had to ask for permission from the guards. We were allowed two minutes to use the toilet each time; thus, many people did not even have enough time to have a bowel movement. Those who had constipation could only have bowel movements several times a month. We could go to bed only at the specified time; otherwise, we would be scolded and not allowed to sleep. At night, the guards locked up all the cells; a small bucket in each cell was used for a toilet. We were watched even during sleep. Several times, I was woken up because I propped up my legs while I was sleeping. They thought I was doing Falun Gong exercises, so I had to keep my legs flat.
We were allowed very little sleep each day; we were forced to start working the moment we opened our eyes. My hands had blisters and thick calluses from working long hours to finish the assigned quota of packaging disposable chopsticks. I often worked until midnight. We were not allowed to sleep unless we finished the quota. We were forced to work over 16 hours every day, and everything was done in our cells where we eat, drink, sleep and use the toilet. The sanitation condition was extremely poor. Even though we were packaging disposable chopsticks and the label said the chopsticks were disinfected at a high temperature, the entire process was unhygienic. We could not wash our hands, and we had to package those chopsticks that had fallen on the floor. In order to seek a huge profit, Tuanhe Prisoner Dispatch Center and Tuanhe Labor Camp disregarded the health of the general public and knowingly committed such wrongdoings. Many restaurants in Beijing are currently using these chopsticks. I heard they are even being exported.
Many female practitioners were usually forced outside; all of their clothes were taken away and they stood outside, naked, for a long period of time. In the winter, some practitioners were forced to freeze outside until they lost consciousness. During these long-term tribulations, I finally reached the limit of my endurance. I signed a guarantee that I would not practice the exercises. The pain of giving up one’s own belief and being transformed cannot be described in words. The next day I cried all day long.
Female practitioners are forced to perform excessive physical labor. We were forced to unload trucks full of bagged materials that weigh over 100 pounds each. We had to carry the bags on our shoulders from the truck to our cells. Other physical labors included digging pits, planting trees, and transporting fertilizers. The police exploited our labor to create illegal income for themselves. The dispatch center did not compensate us for any of our work. In fact, we were forced to do long and hard labor without any compensation.
(2) Beijing Xin’an Labor Camp
Both our bodies and minds were imprisoned and severely persecuted under the excessive workload. The police often kept us from sleeping at regular hours. When there were work orders, we had to work day and night to produce the best product with the shortest amount of time. The police even said, “You are trying to be good people, you should do the best under every circumstance.” The torture and inhuman treatment of Falun Gong practitioners by policemen is widespread and serious. While in prison, the first thing they have to do is take off all of their clothes in public and have iced water poured all over them. Everyone has to go through this severe routine, including menstruating women. This may cause them to later have problems when giving birth, but the policemen didn’t care.
All the work in the labor camp is labor intensive. Falun Gong practitioners are forced to work until midnight under dim lights, and everyone has a quota to meet. If a practitioner cannot finish the quota, he/she is not allowed to sleep. One time we were making gift items…knitted products and crocheted cushions. In order to meet the shipping deadline, we were forced to work in the hallway or lavatories until one or two o’clock in the morning; we sometimes worked through the whole night. The police used this method to control our thoughts. They would not let us have a single moment of idle time to think calmly, and we were not allowed to talk to each other. They had drug addicts and ex-practitioners monitoring us. They only wanted us to work.
In order to evade people’s attention, the labor camp required us to sleep on time every night. We got up very early in the morning to work. During summer time, our cells were so hot that people sometimes collapsed from heat exhaustion. Many practitioners developed symptoms of hypertension and heart disease from overwork. Their entire bodies twitched.
We had to say “Report, yes” loudly whenever going in and out of the jail cells. If the sound wasn’t loud enough, we would be punished by being forced to shout 100 times at the wall. Then we had to lift our legs up at a 90 degree angle while walking and then stamp down with all our strength. Before eating, we had to kneel down on the ground, hold the bowl over our head and shout loudly, “Reporting to the leader, prisoner XXX asks to have her meal.”
Once they handcuffed me to the window and forcibly injected medicine into my left arm. When the medicine got into my bloodstream, I felt severe pain in my heart, and then my heartbeat sped up and beat severely. Every heartbeat felt like it would cause my heart to explode. After that, I clearly felt that I was having difficulty thinking. My reactions and memory became dull. My left side also twitched frequently and it became more and more fierce. What we were fed in jails and labor camps may have had medicines mixed in. The food smelled strange. After eating it we would feel like throwing up, and we would become very drowsy. In addition, there was brutal beating and torture. Once they beat me so badly that the prisoners who watched the beating cried and asked the policemen to stop beating me.
With some kind hearted people’s help, I was eventually able to leave China. I often ask myself: I only want to follow the standard of “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance” to be a good person, but they forced me to change from a respectable person to an accomplice who persecuted my fellow practitioners. It is Falun Gong that will save me once again.
Narrative as told to participants at the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights’ joint forum with the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group and the NGO International Education Development, March 31, 2004, in Geneva, Switzerland.