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Exposing Slave Labor Practices Inside Chinese Labor Camps (Part II)

March 26, 2004 |   By Clearwisdom reporter Chu Tianxing


B. The forced labor camps in China commonly use slave labor to make a large variety of products

As major corporations around the world seek cheap labor, the forced labor camps in China have increased their exploitation of detainees, using them for slave labor. Falun Gong practitioners are no exception. Over the past four years, Falun Gong practitioners, as well as other labor camp detainees, have been forced to do slave labor.

As of mid-February 2004, at least 896 Falun Gong practitioners are known to have been tortured to death for their belief in Truth-Compassion-Tolerance. Thousands of others are being unlawfully detained and being forced to do exhausting work, including packaging chopsticks, making toys for export, and making hair products for Henan Rebecca Hair Products, Inc. in Xuchang City.

1. According to an eye-witness account by a Falun Gong practitioner from Wuhan City published in February 2004 on Clearwisdom.net, officials at the Hewan Forced Labor Camp in Wuhan City have for a long time forced detainees to make products for export, including an eagle toy and a bear toy. The workshop starts the day at 6:00 a.m. and stays open until 2:00 a.m. the next morning.

2. The people detained at Dashaping Detention Center in Lanzhou City have only enough space to lie down on their side when sleeping, and for their daily meals they are given only steamed buns and plainly cooked noodles. Despite the terrible living conditions, the detainees are forced to do highly intensive manual labor daily. According to Chinese laws, a detention center is a place where suspects who have not been convicted are held temporarily, and they should not be subjected to physical labor. However, everyone who is sent to this detention center is forced to do slave labor and to work for the Zhenglin Melon Seeds Corporation, a well-known company in Gansu Province.

The detainees at Dashaping Detention Center pick watermelon seeds in the winter and remove the seed husks in the summer. They have to use their teeth to continuously crack and remove the husks from the watermelon seeds, while squatting in the same position for more than 10 hours a day. They are only allowed to take a break when having meals. In the winter, people had to stay in an open field to pick seeds. Many people have suffered frostbite, cracked skin and scabies, and the watermelon seeds often get covered with blood and pus. In the summer, cracking the husks breaks teeth and creates loosened teeth, swollen lips and cracked fingernails, and sometimes causes the fingernails to break off. The detention center authorities know this work is illegal, so they always order the detainees to stop working and put the seeds in bags before reporters or government inspectors come. The authorities would then hand out newspapers to every detainee, who would pretend to be reading the paper. When visiting reporters or inspectors left, the work would resume.

The detainees are not paid a penny for their work. The Zhenglin Watermelon Seed Co. and the detention center joined forces in exploiting the detainees' labor and split the profits between them. Within several years, the Lanzhou Zhenglin Food Corporation became the largest production center in China for making stir-fried food (seeds). In 1999, the company had a total sales of 460 million yuan [approximately $55,577,287 USD]. The corporation sold its premier product, the hand-picked watermelon seeds, as export and sold them to more than 30 countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

The Xiguoyuan Detention Center in Lanzhou City and the Kefa Factory Prison also participated in this unconstitutional exploitation of labor.

3. Henan Province's No. 3 Labor Camp, also called the Xuchang City Labor Camp in Xuchang City, is located in Henan Province, where most of the Chinese hair products are made. When the labor camp was short of funds and was about to be shut down, many Falun Gong practitioners were abducted and were forced to make hair products, which revived the labor camp's business.

Qu Shuangcai, Director of the No. 3 Labor Camp, brutally persecuted Falun Gong practitioners and was favored by his superiors. In May 2003, he was transferred to the Shibalihe Female Labor Camp in Zhenzhou City and promoted to director of that labor camp. Right away he signed a contract with Henan Rebecca Hair Products, Inc. located 120 miles away from the labor camp in Xuchang City. He also instituted the use of straight jacket restraints to use in torturing practitioners. Within several months of his arrival there, three female Falun Gong practitioners were tortured to death.

Guard Shen Jianwei from the No. 3 Labor Camp often said, "A while back, when the labor camp was short on funds and was about to be shut down, many Falun Gong practitioners became available. The government allocated 20,000 yuan [$2,416 USD] to force each practitioner to renounce his belief in Falun Dafa." The labor camp spent eight million yuan [$966,561 USD] worth of government funding to construct residential buildings and encourages the guards to persecute these practitioners. Right now, the labor camp is "buying" Falun Gong practitioners from other places for 800 yuan each to use as slave laborers, to increase the volume of products for the labor camp. At this labor camp, whoever shouts "Falun Dafa is good!" is ordered to be tortured. [Note: 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly salary of an urban worker in China.]

Recently, because Dafa practitioners inside and outside of China have exposed the labor camp authorities' crimes, the number of orders received by the labor camp has markedly decreased. Because of the loss in profit, the labor camp authorities conceived a plan to deceive their clients with a show of false kindness. They invited many business owners in the hair trade and other related people to visit the No. 3 Forced Labor Camp on February 16, 2004, in an attempt to cover up their crimes and to continue to make huge profits.

4. Whoever is sent to the Langfang City Detention Center learns that the forced labor there is extremely intensive and difficult to endure. There are always countless beans waiting to be picked and chopsticks waiting to be wrapped. The project manager in charge assigns daily jobs to every detainee. Detainees who are unable to finish their assignments are punished by either not being allowed to sleep or by being given evening work. They are forced to work over 12 hours each day. Many suffer from heatstroke during the hot summer from working in poorly ventilated cells and not given adequate water. The only time they get a break is when the upper level authorities come to visit or to inspect the detention center. At that time, the officer tells everyone stop working and takes the products away and hides them. All detainees then start cleaning the cells and yards. Then they are ordered to sit down on the ground and recite the detention center's rules and regulations. After the visitors leave, the detainees are forced to begin their work again.

5. A Falun Gong practitioner who was detained at the Shuangkou Forced Labor Camp in Tianjin City wrote in a letter to Clearwisdom.net,

"Because of the hostile living environment in this forced labor camp, 90% of the detainees have scabies, a contagious skin disease caused by mites. At that time my legs, chest, and hands were infected, but the camp still forced us to perform slave labor.

The camp police arranged for me to package chopsticks into paper wrappers or make vegetarian shish kabobs. In the food processing plant, many detained practitioners got scabies, and some even had yellowish pus oozing out of the blisters on their fingers. Without the use of gloves, the pus contaminated the food and the chopsticks.

The forced labor camp pays no attention to the well being of the detained practitioners. They also ignore the health issues of the consumers! Obviously, the camp products are not sanitary. In the same workshop, fire-retardant fiberglass was also manufactured, so there were bits and pieces of fiberglass everywhere. For a period of time, I was binding brushes for cooking utensils. The regular workload per person was usually 170, but we were each assigned a quota of 390. A slower person would have to continue working all day and night. Every time there was an inspection by outsiders or a tour arriving, the labor camp police would keep the workload record as 170 pieces per person and we could be off duty in the late afternoon. However, they would then wake us up at 2:00 a.m. to make up the lost slave labor hours. They arbitrarily added to the workload of practitioners who refused to cooperate with the camp instructors. The detainees at the forced labor camp are worked to extreme exhaustion without any compensation."

6. The Jianxin Forced Labor Camp of Tianjin City was expanded especially for persecuting Falun Dafa practitioners. Since the inception of the Sixth Division, for female detainees, several hundred Dafa practitioners have been detained there. Most were older than fifty years of age, the oldest practitioner being seventy-three years old.

The labor camp forces Dafa practitioners to work for as long as 17-18 hours each day. If they cannot finish their assigned workload, the Dafa practitioners are not allowed to sleep; some of them even have to work through the night without sleep for several days, or at most they are only allowed to sleep for one or two hours a day. Many of the Dafa practitioners, especially the older ones, began practicing Falun Gong in order to heal their illnesses and improve their health. Because of the vicious environment in the camp, the practitioners were forbidden from studying the Dafa books and from practicing the Falun Gong exercises. Not only that, in addition to prolonged work hours and exhausting work, they endured intolerable mental and physical pressure. That is the reason why some practitioners suffered relapses of their original illnesses, which had been cured before they were detained in the labor camps.

One older woman with the surname Li had a high blood pressure reading of over 200 and had serious heart problems, but was still forced to finish her daily assigned workload. One night at midnight, she collapsed in the bathroom. They tried for over one hour to resuscitate her in the bathroom but could not bring her around. The camp authorities had to send her to the hospital for emergency treatment. She was diagnosed with a massive cerebral hemorrhage. After her skull was opened, the doctors found three out of the four cerebral ventricles suffered massive hemorrhages. After the incident occurred, in order to deceive Ms. Li's family and keep the facts from them, the police tried to avoid responsibility by inciting criminal prisoners and those "collaborators", former practitioners who had turned against Dafa under pressure to create false evidence.

The perpetrators also forced Falun Gong practitioners who had scabies and whose hands seeped pus to process other types of food. Some inmates and prostitutes whose bodies seeped pus and who had STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] were ordered to pick sunflower seeds, package chocolates and candies, fold dessert trays and moon cake trays. They did all this work on inmates' beds, which is a serious violation of laws regulating food hygiene production methods. They even ordered inmates with contagious diseases to package food-containing children's toys.

7. Since July 2001, the Longshan Labor Camp officials have forced Falun Gong practitioners to process wax candles in various colors (other common inmates are also forced to do this work). The wax is then exported and the labor camp makes big profits from the cheap labor.

The Longshan Labor Camp received its first order for the wax-processing job in mid-July 2001. The elderly and weak Falun Gong practitioners were forced to work in their cells, making plastic packing boxes for the wax.

The majority of Falun Gong practitioners were taken to a big hall near the entrance of the labor camp to process and to pack the wax. Over a dozen colors were used for the wax, and each of them gave off a strong smell of artificial perfumes that irritated their nasal passages. After a whole day's work, practitioners would be covered with wax crumbs and their clothes would smell of these irritating chemical odors. Many practitioners looked pale, became dizzy and sick and lost their appetite from inhaling these toxic odors.

About 100 people were forced to do this work on a daily basis. The common inmates can finish 80 to 90 boxes per person per day if done at a fast speed.

The transparent glue used for sealing the boxes is toxic. Since practitioners have to use their fingers to press and seal, their fingers are often stuck together. Sometimes when this happens repeatedly it makes the skin peel off and stick to the box.

Initially, the daily work hours were from 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. But later on, the guards said that more shipping containers were waiting to be filled for delivery. So sometimes the work hours were extended until past midnight or even around 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. Later, when they ran out of space in the big hall, the authorities moved the wax production assembly line to the narrow hallways between the cells. Those cells were already poorly ventilated. Now, not only were the cells full of odors of chemical perfume but the hallways became contaminated as well. People became dizzy and lost energy as a result. The long work hours and the toxic smell made Falun Gong practitioners dizzy and weak in the four limbs. For example, a practitioner named Ning in the 1st Brigade returned from the big hall and felt dizzy and weak. He lay on his bed and could not get up. Once, an elderly Falun Gong practitioner turned pale and had to be helped back from the wax-processing hall.

The wax-processing work continued until early 2002. This is only one example of manufacturers using slave labor from Chinese labor camps. They especially take advantage of this type of labor around the peak period of overseas holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

Apart from the slave labor-produced products mentioned above, the Longshan Labor Camp also assembles and/or manufactures festive decorations such as snowmen and snowflakes, etc. In addition, they also make shoe soles and sew overcoats and other products. The work hours for those products are even longer and the labor is more intense.

8. In order to make some quick money for themselves, prison guards at the Jiamusi Forced Labor Camp in Heilongjiang Province accepted illegal production projects, and forced camp inmates, Falun Gong practitioners included, to do the intensive production work. They used a very inferior grade of rubber with toxic levels exceeding the industry standards to make cell phone cases. This has seriously harmed the health of the inmates who handled these materials. Because of the hard slave labor and toxic materials, Falun Gong practitioners suffered tremendously and were not able to work after a while. Practitioners who refused to do the work were severely beaten.

Practitioners were also subjected to forced slave labor involving other carcinogenic raw materials. Starting on March 8, 2003, all of the inmates from the No. 9 Brigade of the Jiamusi Labor Camp, totaling more than 80 people, were forced to make cell phone cases. The factory provided the raw materials and the labor camp provided the manpower. The planned annual production is valued at three million yuan, which is tax-exempt, and both parties gained tremendous profit from this deal. In fact, the labor camp is selling business licenses.

The rubber was of poor quality and gave off an irritating gases that brought about a harsh choking sensation. The guards on duty couldn't sustain the smell and asked the technical supervision bureau to send their people to check it out. The people from the technical supervision bureau came with detection instrumentation. After lab tests they said that the toxin levels in the raw materials used were well beyond the industry standards and could cause cancer. Thus, the guards on duty wore large facemasks and stayed outside while guarding the practitioners, and never entered the production area while the practitioners were working there. At the same time, the cell phone cases made by these toxic raw materials brought harm to consumers.

Mandatory overtime was enforced in order to meet the daily production quota. Many practitioners and inmates suffered from constant bloody running noses, irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing. Dafa practitioner Ms. Shi Jing had a pale face and collapsed on the worktable due to being overworked. Later, when she had revived a little, she was forced to continue working.

In April 2002, the No. 7 Brigade received a production project involving making flax cushions for car seats. Practitioners were forced to perform slave labor from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. nonstop. This kind of flax produces a lot of particles and dust, which is harmful to one's health, irritates the respiratory system and causes an itchy throat and difficulty in breathing. There were no safety measures in place in the production area. Practitioner Ms. Cao Xiuxia became ill from the long hours of slave labor and the terrible working conditions. Because she could not work any more, prison guard Sun Limin beat her savagely.

In July 2002, authorities responsible for the No. 7 Brigade forced Falun Gong practitioners to construct paper boxes for moon cakes, using toxic and foul-smelling glue. Many practitioners became ill, with inflamed and swollen eyes, but the prison guards didn't care.

9. The No.1 Female Forced Labor Camp in Shandong Province conspired with several factories to force Falun Gong practitioners to make bedding products, process plastic cement packages and put name-brand labels on quilts.

Falun Gong practitioners detained at Division Five of the labor camp suffer the most. Their workshop was located in the basement of the labor camp cafeteria, where sewer pipes run through. The room was low and dark, and foul-smelling water from the pipes constantly leaked into the room. A dozen sewing machines, both electric and manual, as well as eight 3-meter-long work tables were in the room. The exit of the basement room was blocked to serve as the restroom, where a urinal was placed. Since there was no wall that actually separated the restroom from the workshop, the stench was overwhelming. When practitioners worked in that basement room, the noise of the sewing machines and from machines in the kitchen above created an overwhelming, traumatic experience.

Female Falun Gong practitioners were forced to work in this basement for 12 to 15 hours every day and were deprived of daylight and fresh air, in addition to having to endure noise of more than 200 decibels. The practitioners' health drastically declined, as they fell ill with weak nerves, colds, headaches, upset stomach, gastrointestinal problems and impaired hearing. The practitioners frequently went to talk to the guards and asked for a ten-minute break at noon or in the evening, but guards Niu Xuelian and Zhao Jie refused to allow them a break.

The guards also extended the practitioners' work time. If the daily production quota was not met, the guards cursed at the practitioners, deducted the practitioners' points and extended their terms. Guard Zhao Jie claimed, "The government cannot feed you for nothing! If you don't do a good job you'll receive more punishment! We have more than enough ways to deal with you!"

To be continued