February 08, 2013 | By a practitioner in Beijing
(Minghui.org) When I read the media report about Julie Keith, a lady from Oregon who had bought a box of Halloween decorations and found a letter from someone in a Chinese labor camp inside, I was moved to tears. According to the letter, the decorations were made in Section 8, Division 2 of Masanjia Forced Labor Camp. The letter stated, “If you accidentally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Rights Organization. Thousands of people here, who are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party, will thank and remember you forever.” The writer of this letter had taken a great risk to try to contact the outside world this way, because, had the letter been discovered, he could have been severely tortured or even killed.
I was detained in the Beijing Women’s Forced Labor Camp in 2001 for 18 months. About 1000 detainees were incarcerated there, and most of them were Falun Gong practitioners serving terms of one to three years. Of the eight sections in the labor camp, only one of them held non-practitioners. These inmates were often ordered to monitor and beat practitioners in the other seven sections. This camp also had an “intensified” unit, comprised of 20 single-story rooms, where practitioners were brutally tortured. The windows of these rooms were always covered by curtains or quilts during the day, and one could hear screams coming from inside.
Guards set the working hours at the labor camp, often 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and sometimes until 2:00 the next morning. Practitioners are only allowed 10 minutes to eat each meal and about 5 minutes to wash themselves in the morning and evening. Use of the toilet is only permitted two times a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. No one received any payment for their work. When I was arrested, the guards confiscated all my money, which was about 2000 yuan, and they did not allow me to contact my family for six months. I had no other clothes to change into.
I had to eat, work, and sleep in the same cell where I was detained. My main responsibility was to bag chopsticks and skewer fish food. We first had to dampen the paper bags used to pack each pair of chopsticks. We used rags, which were also used to clean the rooms, hallways and toilets, to dampen the bags. The chopsticks were usually piled up on the floor, and when we had too many of them, we rolled up the bedding and stored them on the bed planks. We never had a chance to wash our hands, even after we had been to the restroom. The drug addicts that monitored us sometimes used the chopsticks to pick their teeth or clean their toes. Every one of those chopsticks was bagged as usual. The paper bags and other containers in which they were packaged were all labeled “sanitized chopsticks.” Some deluxe chopsticks were made with high quality wood using a more refined manufacturing process. They were put into special paper or plastic bags that carried the name of a certain hotel or restaurant. However, they were also piled on the floor, used for picking teeth and cleaning toes, and were packed with dirty hands.
We usually had a daily quota to pack about 8,000 pairs of chopsticks, and it was difficult to finish that many. If we didn’t finish by the end of a normal day’s shift, we had to work longer hours. In order to finish our meals quicker and continue to work, we ate where we worked and then placed our bowls on the floor next to us. The intensive work made our hands blister and bleed and become callused. After working the entire day, we often had difficulty straightening our backs.
Skewering fish food was even more labor intensive. We used fishing bait for this, which was dark red and no bigger than the tip of a chopstick. The skewers were one and a half centimeters in length. We first picked up tiny rubber rings with some forceps, put them around the fish bait, and connected the rings to the sticks. We had to complete 4 kg of fine fish food or 5 kg of regular fish food a day. When our hands got worn out, we had to tape our injured hands, which really hurt, and then continue working.
Working with fish food is extremely unsanitary and it has a pungent smell. Because the fish food and the rubber rings are so small in size, we often had to hold them close to our eyes to work on them. So the dust went into our eyes and nose and often caused a rash on our skin, which was more severe in the summer. Our hands were often swollen when we cut and prepared the rubber rings. We suffered extreme pain, and some of the practitioners’s hands became gnarled.
Many of us working in the camp couldn’t stand up straight and had difficulty walking. The physical and mental exhaustion was extreme. Many of us were between 50 to 70 years old, yet we were still forced to do hard labor. When one 61-year-old practitioner arrived at our cell, her entire face looked purple. We could see her bruises, her nose was swollen, and she could barely open her eyes. She had blood clots in her hair and blood stains on her shoes and clothes. She had been beaten two weeks earlier. Her back hurt, and she had difficulty walking and turning over in her sleep. Despite her condition, she was forced to do hard labor upon arrival in our cell. We were not allowed to talk to each other. If we did, we were beaten and shocked with electric batons.
At the transition center and in the section I was assigned to, we also had to produce sweaters, woolen gloves, and woolen hats. We had strict requirements on how many stitches we had to do per inch. Anyone who made a mistake had to redo it. We also sewed colorful beads and shiny items to sweaters or skirts, which were then exported overseas. Other work included growing vegetables, making ornaments, folding paper, and packaging sanitary products for women. Each section had different work to do, and we could not go to sleep until our work was done.
Chinese version available
CATEGORY: Imprisonment & Forced Labor