PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 6:20pm

More inhumane stories about China’s labour camps emerge


Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for Amy can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP

When police officers in Liaoning escorted 80-year-old Liu Chunshan to a car while carrying his oxygen tank, many onlookers thought he was just another privileged party official enjoying “special treatment” from the government.

He was, indeed, receiving “special treatment” – but of a harsh and unpleasant kind.

Liu Chunshan, a government retiree from Yingkou of China’s northern Liaoning province, was sent to a Yingkou labour camp in April. This was after he had presented a written petition to officials in Beijing, voicing his opposition to land seizures in Liaoning.

It is believed that Liu is the oldest person in China in recent times to be sent to a labour camp.

The 80-year-old was released a week later after suffering a heart attack, his son, Lu Xuebo, said.

Liu has high blood pressure, bad teeth and needs help eating rice and porridge, his son explained.

After spending days in the Yingkou labour camp, where the only food available was steamed bread, Liu’s health deteriorated.

The steamed bread was so hard Liu had to soak it in water before eating it. A 54-year-old inmate was assigned to hold Liu’s bowl because the elderly man’s hands were shaking.

Liu was punished for “disturbing public order”, said the police, whose records showed Liu had made 37 trips to petition Beijing in the past.

Since then, more shocking reports about the cruelty and stupidity of China’s “re-education through labour” system have surfaced. In a separate incident, a graduate student in Beijing posted a story of her mother being sent to a labour camp in Lanzhou after visiting her son in Beijing last week.

This has been said many times – but let me repeat it again for our officials.

China’s system of imprisoning people in labour camps, without trial, is not only inhumane, but illegal.

Does the labour system really “maintain social stability” as claimed by the authorities? In reality, it has done the opposite: creating discord and resentment.

Moreover, it’s ruining the lives of innocent citizens who are the pillars of a “stable” society.

It needs to be abandoned, immediately.



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