(Minghui.org) To average Chinese, detention centers are unfamiliar places. Because of strict government censorship, outsiders know very little about the facilities used to hold suspects before they are convicted or acquitted at trial.
Many detainees are unwilling to recall or seldom mention what they have experienced, making it even more difficult for the public to know what goes on in detention centers around the country.
The Chinese communist regime has been utilizing detention centers heavily in its nationwide campaign against Falun Gong that started in 1999. Many practitioners have been temporarily held in detention centers before they were convicted and sent to labor camps or prisons. Many have been maimed or even tortured to death for refusing to renounce their faith.
I have detailed below how detention centers abuse detainees, including practitioners.
These methods are commonly used by police when someone is accused of a crime and refuses to make a confession. They have become the norm in the treatment of practitioners. Police officers are also given financial rewards for forcing practitioners to renounce their faith.
Police would hang up female practitioners by their handcuffs and shock them with electric batons. Only those who have experienced it understand why it is hell on earth.
As time passes and practitioners continue to expose the persecution, such beatings and electric shocks are no longer seen openly in most cases. However, the authorities continue to use other detainees to abuse practitioners.
Policemen are in charge of a few cells but usually do not enter the cells. Instead, they choose one detainee in each cell to be the person-in-charge. These detainees are usually wealthy and able to send officers gifts, or their family members have connections with the police. Most are involved in drug trafficking or loan sharking. They often go in and out of the detention center and are very familiar with the system.
The authorities gain full control of these detainees in charge by giving them privileges and power over others. They arrange the work of those who are forced to do slave labor but do not do labor themselves. They also arrange the daily lives of those in their cell, including personal hygiene, expenses, and finances.
The strict hierarchy is evident during meals, which take place in three “mangers”–a term used to position detainees as animals.
The first manger has three to four people and includes the person-in-charge and those who have money or connections with the police. One to two persons will be assigned to wait on them. In addition to using their own money to purchase oil and other foodstuffs, those in the first manger can spend other people's money for their own enjoyment, as they have backing from the police. If anyone objects, the person-in-charge will make their lives difficult through labor and living arrangements.
The second manger has four to five people. They are usually assigned to wait on the person-in-charge and those in the first manger. They may also have connections with the police or serve as thugs for the person-in-charge. These detainees are slightly worse off when it comes to food distribution and may not be given enough. Some who have been in the detention center for a long time have become familiar with others and may either eat alone or with one to two others.
The third and lowest manger consists of new arrivals and those without money or family, as well as Falun Gong practitioners. They are given very little food—one piece of cornbread and thin cabbage soup and only mustard greens for breakfast year round. Those who can afford it are not allowed to buy food for themselves; instead, the person-in-charge makes the purchase for everyone. The result is that others take their food.
There is also a rule that detainees are not allowed to give each other food; only the person-in-charge is allowed to buy and distribute food. Their explanation is that the detention center allocates only one piece of cornbread per person, which is far from sufficient, so everyone would be hungry while the remaining cornbread would have to be thrown away.
The person-in-charge uses the cornbread or leftover food from the first manger to command the loyalty of those in the second and compensate them for doing extra labor or taking care of those in the first manger.
The work in the detention center is also arranged based on mangers. The first manger has others wait on them and does not have to do cleaning or rotating shifts. They can also take bedding from newcomers. Those in the second manger have to work shifts but need not do cleaning.
There is also a ranking for sleeping. The person-in-charge gets thick mattresses and a two-person sleeping area. Others in the first two mangers also have thick mattresses and a one-person sleeping area. In the third manger, two people have to squeeze into a one-person sleeping area and share one thin blanket.
Having lost their freedom in society, these persons in charge are given many privileges, which encourage them to work for the authorities. They are rewarded with more comfortable living conditions for beating and swearing at other detainees and abusing Falun Gong practitioners.
In my understanding, the use of forced labor in detention centers started with the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999 and continues to the present. Except for persons in charge, all detainees, regardless of illness or age, must do slave labor every day and meet a production target.
If they fall short of the target, they are either beaten or sworn at. It is a race against time every day to finish the work after waking up at 6 a.m.
Detainees are not paid a penny for their work. I learned that some businessmen pay for work at the detention center at a lower price and receive higher output. As the detainees are earning money for the police, the police are very concerned about production quantity.
Such a system leads some detainees to think of ways to enslave others after they are released, as compensation for their own treatment in detention. By doing so, these detainees would be committing a crime.
The food in the detention center is inedible. Daily rations include salted vegetables for breakfast, mustard greens, a big pot of porridge, and a piece of cornbread so detainees would not starve. Lunch and dinner consist of a piece of cornbread and a small pot of cabbage soup.
There are occasional changes to the meal. A bun is given out once or twice a week, and everyone is given an egg and some fatty meat in the vegetable soup once a week. However, no one dares to eat the fat, as it can cause diarrhea after not eating oil for a long time.
Having diarrhea is troublesome: detainees are allowed to defecate only once a day; anything more requires permission. Even if permission is granted, the detainees are still sworn at by the person-in-charge.
With this kind of diet and continuous overtime work, the detainees suffer severe malnutrition.
To supplement such a poor diet, the detainees have no choice but to buy high-priced food from the detention center.
A package of instant noodles sells for one yuan at a local grocery store and 1.6 yuan in the detention center. While this may seem reasonable, each cell is allowed to buy only two boxes of instant noodles, no matter how many people are in the cell. If a cell has more than 15 people, there is not enough for everyone, and they have to buy other food at inflated prices.
For comparison, a bun costs one yuan outside and three yuan in the detention center. One yuan also buys three salted vegetables at a grocery store but only one in the detention center.
As Falun Gong practitioners do not stay in the detention center for more than a few months before being sent to a labor camp or prison, they gradually forget the abuse in the detention center. However, the system in the detention center still causes great harm to the practitioners’ health and well-being.
I hope that other practitioners can continue to expose the systematic abuse in detention centers to keep the police, guards, and detainees there from committing further crimes.