(Minghui.org) On December 23, 2021, President Biden of the United States signed into law the bipartisan bill, “the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” banning goods made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region from entering the American market. This highlights the fact that although the labor camp system has been officially abolished in China in 2013, the situation of forced labor still continues.

One group particularly targeted with such human rights abuse are practitioners of Falun Gong, a peaceful meditation system that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since July 1999. Compared to Uyghurs, forced labor imposed on Falun Gong practitioners is oftentimes even worse as explained below.

“We Arrested You for Money”

There have been numerous reports on Minghui on forced labor and here are a few examples.

Increased workload during pandemic

Division 11 of Shandong Province Prison resumed forced labor on July 22, 2020, after a pause during the pandemic. Division Head, Wang Chuansong, ordered to gradually increase working hours and workload. Detainees were required to get up at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. and work until 8 or 9 p.m. The workload also kept increasing from 400 units of products a day to 800, and even 1,600 a day.

“Wang was recently appointed to this position and he must have been thinking to accumulate political capital by making us do more work,” one inmate said. In fact, it indeed happened that way. The workload soon doubled and, after some time, it doubled again. Because of refusing to do forced labor, practitioner Mr. Zheng Xufei was put in solitary confinement, where he was forced to stand for a long time and sometimes after midnight. Inmates Xu Chao and Liu Huailing were assigned to watch Mr. Zheng, and they stomped on Mr. Zheng’s toes hard, making them severely swollen.

Working Over 10 Hours a Day with Egg-sized Meal

A similar situation occurred at the Jiazhou Prison in Leshan City, Sichuan Province. Practitioners detained there were forced to do hard labor without pay for over 10 hours a day, but each meal was only a little bigger than an egg. The workload, on the other hand, increased day after day. The electronic products they were forced to produce kept increasing, from 50 units per day, to 60, 70, or 80 per day.

Prison officials claimed detainees worked 8 hours a day for 5 days per week, with two days of break, when in fact the break was at most half a day per week. If a practitioner failed to finish his daily work assignments, Division 6 political instructor Li Wenqing would order inmates to tie up the practitioner, insert two egg-sized balls into his mouth and fix them with a rope, spray pepper water in the face, and cover the entire head in a face shield. The practitioner would then be forced to stand still for more than 10 hours a day with two inmates assigned to watch him. These designated inmates often removed the practitioner’s coat to freeze him or her, and no sleep was allowed. One practitioner known as Xiao Si was once punished this way by Li Wenqing, from August 2, 2020 to January 5, 2021.

Physical torture, mental abuse, and death

Ms. Chen Yongchun, a practitioner in Yingkou City, Liaoning Province, was arrested in October 2015 with her home ransacked. When she said she was innocent, an officer dismissed it, “How dare you still talk about it? We’re arresting you so that we can get a bonus.”

After being sentenced to a five-year term, Ms. Chen was sent to the Shenyang Women’s Prison, where she was forced to produce paper crafts. Very often she had to work until after midnight with no break, and the inmates beat her up from time to time. As a result of long-time physical torture and mental abuse, she was often in a trance. With little appetite, she quickly became emaciated.

In 2019, Ms. Chen began to exhibit symptoms of diabetes and her condition quickly worsened. When her family picked her up from the prison hospital in October 2020, she was unable to walk by herself. She could not see clearly and was extremely emaciated. Several months later, Ms. Chen died at the age of 50 on March 4, 2021.

Nearly 700 State-Owned Enterprises in Prisons Across China

According to available statistics, there are at least 681 state-owned enterprises based in prisons in almost all of the provinces across China. In addition, legal representatives of 432 such firms are also holding government agency positions, ranging from directors or deputy directors of prison administration bureaus to directors or deputy directors of prisons.

These prison enterprises are centrally managed and use almost exclusively free labor. Detainees are forced to work beyond their physical and psychological limits or they’d face torture. The huge free labor market at the various prisons, labor camps, and brainwashing centers give the CCP a tremendous competitive advantage as it competes with other countries. No matter how much tariffs the U.S. imposes on made-in-China products, it would not have any significant effect on the free-labor market in China.

Data shows that while Falun Gong practitioners are the main victims of forced labor, other groups are also targeted, including detained human rights advocates, lawyers, ordinary citizens who petitioned for their rights, underground church members, Uyghurs, and others. In fact, after the CCP began to suppress Falun Gong in 1999, the forced labor market in China has sharply expanded.

Raising Awareness

Julie Keith, a mother in Oregon, opened a package of Halloween decorations bought from her local retail store in 2012. Inside the package was an SOS letter sent from the now-defunct Masanjia Labor Camp.

“Please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right[s] Organization. Thousands [of] people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever,” wrote the letter. It explained that detainees there had to work 15 hours a day with no breaks on Saturday, Sunday, or other holidays; otherwise, they would be punished with beating, torture, or other types of mistreatment. They hardly earned any money – only 10 yuan (or $1.6) per month.

The person who wrote this letter was Mr. Sun Yi, an engineer in Beijing, who was detained at Masanjia Labor Camp for practicing Falun Gong. In 2018, this story was turned into the documentary movie, Letter from Masanjia. When it was screened at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C. in September 2019, staff members from dozens of U.S. Congress members watched the documentary.

Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods, a book by Amelia Pang, was published in February 2021. “A moving and powerful look at the brutal slave labor camps in China that mass produce our consumer products,” wrote Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author about the book.

Although this letter from Masanjia and other incidents triggered the end of the labor camp system in China in 2013, the forced labor continued and additional SOS letters were found.

In early 2017, a girl in New York found such a SOS note from a prison in China on the back of cake box wrapping paper. In March 2017, one woman in Arizona found such a letter from the Yingshan Prison in Shanxi Province in a wallet she bought from Walmart. During the 2019 Christmas, a 6-year-old girl in the U.K. found a SOS message from the Qingpu Prison in Shanghai on a Christmas card purchased from Tesco, the largest retailer in the country.

Persecution Continues

According to Amnesty International, after the CCP announced to shut down labor camps in 2013, many of these facilities were renamed as drug treatment centers. In addition, the Xinjiang internment camps launched by the CCP in 2014 are considered by Western countries and human rights organizations as “reeducation” camps or labor camps. About one to three million people are detained there.

After the CCP extracted enormous benefits from Falun Gong practitioners, it has applied similar tactics on detained Uyghurs, dissidents, and human rights advocates. In fact, after the former CCP leader Jiang Zemin issued the order against Falun Gong practitioners to “defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically,” officials have recklessly detained, imprisoned, and tortured a large number of practitioners. Many practitioners also suffered psychiatric abuse and sexual abuse or went missing. Many of these tactics have now been used on Uyghurs or Muslims.

According to the 2022 report from Human Rights Watch, CCP officials “were committing crimes against humanity as part of a widespread and systematic attack on Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, including mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution.” Many of these methods had been used against Falun Gong practitioners previously.

Parliaments in Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the U.K. have passed resolutions to condemn the CCP’s genocide against Uyghurs. Compared to this, however, suppression by the CCP against Falun Gong practitioners has been more severe and going on for a much longer time.

“That crimes against humanity have been perpetrated against the Falun Gong is beyond any reasonable doubt. The evidence is overwhelming, detailed, corroborated and voluminous,” wrote Canadian filmmaker Caylan Ford and human rights lawyer David Matas in a December 2021 article titled “Keeping our eyes open to China’s machinery of repression.”

“There is a real question why so many people do not know it is happening,” wrote the article, “Few events in recent Chinese history have had as profound an impact on the country’s political, security, and psychic landscape, and few events are as little studied or as poorly understood.”

“If the Chinese Communist Party is allowed to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against its own people, imagine what it will be emboldened to do to the free world, in the not-so-distant future,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on January 19, 2021.

We need to work together to speak out against this atrocity by the totalitarian regime; otherwise, our own voice may not be heard by others when we end up becoming the victims.