My Account of Forced Labor at Lanzhou City Railway Detention Center

January 19, 2013 | By Ming Xin, a Falun Gong practitioner in Shandong Province, China

( I was arrested for reading materials about Falun Gong in 2004 because several police officers fell prey to the hate propaganda that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been running against Falun Gong. I was detained in Lanzhou City Railway Detention Center in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province.

This detention center often fulfills contracts for private corporations, such as peeling garlic. I, too, was forced to work peeling garlic for the detention center’s financial gain.

I had thought peeling garlic to be an easy task, but it was not at all what I had imagined. In the morning they would push a sack or two of garlic into our cell. We had to peel and wash them clean by the end of the day. There were usually six to seven people in each cell.

When I first started to peel garlic, the inmates in my cell laughed. They meant to say that it would take me forever to do it this way. They moved a wash basin of about 3 feet in diameter into our cell and had someone watch for the guards. Of course, some guards would turn a blind eye. The inmates poured the garlic into the basin and stamped on the garlic with their feet until the garlic broke into single cloves. Then they would soak the garlic cloves in tap water and cover the basin. This was forbidden, as we were ordered to peel garlic by hand one by one, but there was just too much garlic. The guards pretended not to know the real way the inmates peeled garlic.

We made finger gloves out of milk packaging to protect our fingers. Otherwise, our fingernails would crack open sooner or later, and the garlic juice would get under our fingernails and burn our skin. We would be subjected to punishment if we damaged too much garlic. Therefore, we had no choice but to hide the damaged ones from the guards every day. With training from the experienced garlic peelers, I became quite skilled at peeling garlic after doing hundreds of them.

One day while I was peeling garlic, I heard noises of punching and kicking, followed by the screaming and wailing of a man. When a guard approached the cell and inquired what was going on, a man replied in sobs, “They beat me up.” Because it was more important to finish the daily quota, the guard simply reproached the accused abuser and then left. After that, the guard stopped checking when the next bout of violence occurred.

An experienced garlic peeler in my cell explained to us. “He must have been too slow in peeling garlic. He should not have talked back when reproached for being slow. He was beaten because he talked back. If we do not learn from the experienced inmates or lack finger protection, we would have suffered from cracked fingernails very quickly. Do you realize how painful it is for the spicy garlic juice to penetrate into your skin under your fingernails? It is excruciating. Without any help from experienced peelers, he would have to stay up until 3am to finish his quota. No one would help him. Just wait and see.”

When we finished our quota at 9 p.m., there were many cells that were still working on finishing their daily quota. We were awakened at midnight by guards shouting at the cells that had failed to finish the quota.

I spent the next month at Zibo City Detention Center in Zibo City, Shandong Province. I was forced to make pill containers of various sizes for Xinhua Pharmaceutical Company in Shandong Province. Sometimes I had to work until 10 p.m.

No inmate was paid for the labor. When I first started, a criminal threatened me with violence because I was not working fast enough.

What I recounted happened in 2004. I am certain that this practice continues to this day in many detention centers across China.

Chinese version available

CATEGORY: Accounts of Persecution


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