By Dongwei BU, January 2009
I worked in Beijing office of The Asia Foundation, an NGO headquartered in San Francisco, as a project coordinator, managing a labor law cooperation project funded by US Department of Labor (USDOL) until I was detained and put into the 'Re-education Through Labor (RTL)’ camp in May 2006.
On May 19, 2006, six to seven police searched my home for the book 'Nine Commentaries of the Chinese Communist Party'. They didn't find the book they wanted but found several Falun Gong books. They put me into the detention center of Haidian District, Beijing. I was locked in a cell of about 20 square meters with 30-35, sometimes over 40 people. I stayed in the detention center for over three months before I was transferred to the labor camp.
In June 2006, I was sentenced to two and half years labor camp without trial and was sent to Beijing Transferring Institution for Re-educationists Through Labor in August 2006. Two and half months later, I was transferred to Beijing Tuanhe Labor Camp.
This was my second time to be in this labor camp. In 2000, I was sentenced to one year in the labor camp for the same reason.
In recent years, Beijing Transferring Institution and Beijing Tuanhe Re-education Through Labor camp has become ‘famous’ in the world because of its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. The labor camp receives attention from some foreign media and human rights organizations. Due to the continuous attention and pressure from the international society, the government gives Beijing Transferring Institution and Beijing Tuanhe Labor camp lot of money to change their ‘hardware’. The government wants to use new facilities to hide the cruel persecution inside.
1. Deprivation of basic needs and brain-washing In Beijing Transferring Institution for Re-educationist Through Labor, we had only 3-4 minutes for washing face and brushing teeth every morning and no time to wash clothes. In two and half months in the Transferring Institution, I only took three showers.
In Beijing Tuanhe Labor Camp, all Falun Gong practitioners are forced to repeatedly listen to the smear words of Falun Gong by the police, watch videos that slander Falun Gong, forced to denounce Falun Gong and, everyday forced to sing songs that praise the communist party.
2. Force-feeding and torture Force-feeding is a torture method that labor camps often use on Falun Gong practitioners, particularly on those who have staged hunger strikes to protest their unlawful persecution. In the notorious Beijing Tuanhe Re-education Through Labor, I witnessed some Falun Gong practitioners who were force-fed barbarously.
One practitioner, Mr. Yu Ming, whom I first met in Tuanhe labor camp in 2001, was sentenced to the labor camp for the third time. Mr. Yu Ming was a successful entrepreneur before the persecution of Falun Gong. This time, we were in the same division, on the same floor but I never saw him because he staged hunger strike and was put into a small specially decorated room with video camera. One day a police took me into their office. He forgot to turn off the monitor before I went in. In the monitor, Yu Ming was bound on a small bed in the center of the room with four non-practitioners sitting around him. Everyday we saw the doctor coming to our division for the force-feeding. Yu Ming had been bound on the bed for over 6 months before he was transferred to Shen Yang Masanjia Labor Camp in April 2007. Till the end of 2008, he has spent nearly 8 years in labor camps since the beginning of the persecution in 1999.
In the first two to three weeks in Tuanhe Labor camp, every Falun Gong practitioner was forced to sit still on a small child chair and was not allowed to move or go to the restroom for long time. Dr. Xu Yin, a professor from the renowned Tsinghua University, now in Chicago, was forced to sit on a child chair for over eight months in Tuanhe labor camp. Some of the practitioners were beaten by the police and non-practitioners.
3. Illegally impound letters of Falun Gong practitioners The officials of Tuanhe labor camp claim that they never break the constitution and the rights of Falun Gong practitioners are well protected. Actually, all the letters coming-in and going-out of the labor camp are opened and checked by the police. Many letters of Falun Gong practitioners were impounded. When I was released, my friends, most of them are non-Falun Gong practitioners, told me that they had written a lot of letters to me. At least 50-100 of my letters were pounded by Tuanhe labor camp, including over a dozen letters from my wife.
When I came to the US, I was told that I was listed by Amnesty International (AI) as one of the prisoners of conscience in China and its members around the world have written at least hundreds of letters to me before I was released. But I haven’t seen even one of them when I was in the labor camp.
4. Forced labor work In Beijing Tuanhe labor camp, we were forced to do the labor work. Sometimes we were exposed to poisonous glues with little protection when making the carton boxes.
Here are several of the products we made in the labor camp (2006-2008):
In the past a few years, Beijing Tuanhe Labor camp has become 'famous' because of its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. So, in recent years, there are some journalists and visitors coming to Tuanhe Labor Camp. The officials of the camp always tell the journalists and visitors that we get pay for our labor. But they never tell them how much we got. I bring abroad my payroll book in the camp with me. In Tuanhe labor camp, I totally got RMB301.63 (US$44) for nearly 20 months’ labor, less than USD2.5/month on average. In 2007, the statutory minimum wage in Beijing was RMB730 (US$106.57) per month.
By now, there are about 100-150 Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing Tuanhe Reeducation Through Labor camp. Some of the practitioners are over 65. Even the senior practitioners are forced to do the hard labor work and finish the same workload.
Among all the jailed Falun Gong practitioners, I am a lucky one. With the help of foreign governments, international organizations and friends, my daughter and I eventually came to the US to join my wife. My family is re-united. I sincerely thank all the people who have helped my family and me in the past two years. But today, millions of Falun Gong practitioners are still being persecuted in China mainland. Many have lost their jobs, their homes, and their freedom. Some even have lost their lives just because of their persistence to their belief.
According to my personal experience, attention and pressure from international society can help to improve the conditions of the jailed practitioners. Please help to stop the persecution. The persecution must be and will be stopped by the mutual efforts of all upright and kind people.