Background Information on Masanjia Labor Camp
The official name of the detention part of the camp is "Masanjia Labor Education Institution," while the business end of it is called the "Xinsheng Farm of Masanjia" (Xinsheng means a new life in Chinese, translator's note). Opened on August 31, 1957, it is located to the west of Shenyang City, Liaoning Province. It covers an area of 1,600 acres, including about 1,100 acres of farmland and orchards, a pig farm with an annual production of 30,000 pigs, a poultry farm, a mechanics' shop and a garment factory. The value of production in 1997 was 104 million Yuan (a little over 10 million US dollars).
In its first 40 years of operation, some 36,000 people have been detained there. It contains prisons for both men and women. Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, Masanjia has become one of the largest detention centers of Falun Gong practitioners in China. It has also become notorious the world over for extremely brutal torture and atrocious disrespect of basic human rights.
Inspection Attempts by the Red Cross
Over the past 15 years, the International Red Cross has repeatedly asked the Chinese government for permission to inspect Chinese prisons to determine if they meet international norms. The prisons in many countries in the world, including the United States, receive such inspection. China refuses to cooperate. In 1993, for example, 20 Chinese prisons were elaborately fixed up, "specially designated" and offered by China to the Red Cross for staged inspections. Masanjia was one of them.
Receiving the list of the 20 "specially designated" prisons, the Red Cross hesitated. Before the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany had invited them to visit the concentration camps where Jewish prisoners had been held in 1936 and 1937. The Nazis staged the event. Some Jewish girls were dressed in white dresses and played violins at the gate of the concentration camp, welcoming the Red Cross officials, who were greatly moved. After the war, the Red Cross admitted that they had been deceived and in fact taken advantage of by Hitler in his propaganda. Learning a lesson from history, they did not want to make the same mistake in China. So they hesitated, not sure what to do.
Finally, the Red Cross gained access to a Laogai Handbook (www.laogai.org/hdbook/) which lists the names and basic details of more than 1,000 prisons in China, including Masanjia. Based on the information they found in the handbook, the Red Cross presented the Chinese government with a list of prisons they wanted to visit. Needless to say, China refused. To date, there has been no agreement between the two parties concerning the inspection of prisons in China.