The following are facts I've learnt about the Chinese prison system. Most are my personal experiences. Some were learnt from my cellmates.
1. Detention Centre
The inmates in the detention centre are classified into three groups: administrative detainees, criminal detainees and arrestees. Administrative detainees do not need to take off their clothing items like leather shoes and leather belts when admitted. Criminal detainees are not treated as leniently, as the moment they arrive at the detention centre, the guards force them to remove all their clothing and submit to a body search. The police use pliers to pull open zippers and metal closures on the clothes, resulting in many of the clothes being badly torn and damaged.
The most ridiculous thing at the centre is that there is a large bamboo basket near the door of the check-up room which the guards call the "trash bin." Inmates are not allowed to bring any valuable personal items like gold rings, watches, leather shoes, leather belts, or jewelry into the cell.
The police do not behave like they do on TV, and register your personal belongings for you. Instead they tell inmates to throw their possessions into the "trash bin." Some people's personal items that are worth several thousand, or even ten thousand yuan, are thrown into that bin. Of course it is pretty obvious where all this "trash" eventually ends up. A pair of my good running shoes were lost this way. At the time I realised where the so-called used shoes at the night market came from. But even the police in other branches do not know this fact.
Goods are for sale to inmates in the detention centre, but they are twice as expensive as in the market. Beer and cigarettes are also sold there. But the cigarettes are fake, not tobacco. Everyone is barefoot unless they were wearing slippers when admitted. All other shoes are thrown into the "trash bin." The wealthy inmates can buy slippers sold there. The poor inmates walk barefoot, and are forced to jog and do drills barefoot every morning. When it rains, the hardship is even more severe.
The food is also very poor. The allowance for each meal is 150 to 200 grams of cooked rice with several pieces of green vegetables and a little meat each week. Within ten seconds of the meal being served, even before I began to eat, some had inmates had already finished theirs.
My work at the centre was stringing lantern beads. I was forced to thread two pieces of copper thread through a hole in a plastic base, and then position the thread equally to both sides of the base. Because the thread was thin and the hole was small, it was hard to pierce and I always pricked my hands. The assignment was 2-4 bags each day, each bag containing 1000 pieces. The older inmates' assignment was half this much. Most people cannot finish the assigned work, and they have to work overtime at night. Some even worked until three or four a.m. However, if there is a Falun Dafa practitioner inside the cell, the inmates will help each other. Many inmates, including the heads of the cell, sincerely feel that Falun Dafa is good. They really have high respect those who practise Falun Dafa.
2. The "Take In" Centre
Our local "take in" centre was once used for brainwashing classes. The classes lasted more than two years, and illegally detained a large number of Falun Dafa practitioners. Some practitioners were sent from the "take in" centre to forced labour camps. After being released from the labour camps, some were sent back to the centre, and then returned to the labour camp again.
At that time the centre was mainly for detaining prostitutes and their customers. The term lasts from six months to two years. From the experience of some inmates here, we can see the chaos of the Chinese judicial system. One young man was a taxi driver. He drove a customer to a "hair salon" to see a prostitute, then waited for him outside the door. Then the police came to arrest customers of the prostitutes. The driver was also detained for six months. Another detainee was the head of a construction contracting company. He was arrested for consorting with a prostitute and asked to pay a 3000-5000 yuan fine. He thought he would be detained for at most fifteen days, so he refused to pay the fine. As a result, he was detained for two years. Actually the detention term is totally dependent on the whim of the police. There is no formal policy at all. Sometimes the police directly send the inmates to the detention centre without mentioning the fine. Almost all the inmates here are from other places, and the police dare not take in local people because their family members could make trouble.
The detainees are forced to do work such as threading lantern beads, tilling land, and carrying mud. Since the "take in" centre is for administrative penalties, the work is not heavy.
3. Drug Rehabilitation Centre
I did not personally go to the drug rehabilitation centre, but I learnt a lot about the centre from many drug addicts who were sent there.
The drugs addicts call our local drug rehabilitation centre "the darkest prison in Southeast Asia." The guards do not supervise the centre directly, as other inmates, known as "big brothers," supervise this area. There is no so-called study or education inside. The drug addicts only work hard to make money for the guards. The assignment for stringing lamp beads is seven or eight bags per day. It is quite common for newcomers to work around the clock without sleep to meet their quota. Only if they work quickly enough, can they earn time to sleep. If someone cannot finish the assignment over the long term, and if beating them every day also doesn't motivate the inmate, only then were they allowed to change to another job.
The "big brothers" do not need to work. Their work is to supervise others. If inmates cannot finish their work assignments, the "big brothers" beat them or have someone else beat them. The "big brothers" carry around large wooden clubs at all times. They check up on work progress in the afternoon. If anyone has not completed enough work, the "big brothers" beat them on the spot. The drug addicts have to give most personal items that are brought to them by their family members to the "big brothers," while keeping only one or two bags of instant noodles. The guards actually cover up all these facts. Both the guards and the big brothers have beaten inmates to death, but since the centre has a death quota every year, all the incidents were covered by paying out some money.
When higher authorities come to inspect, the centre does something to ensure a favourable review. For example, there is usually no meat for the inmates, but during the inspection a big slice of meat will be put into every inmate's bowl. But the inmates are told beforehand, "You are not allowed to eat it!" Then when the inspection is over, all the meat is collected. Some inmates were so starved that they ate the meat. As a result, they were beaten first, then thrown into a pool to soak, then exposed to the hot sun.
According to the law, the term for drug rehabilitation is three months. But in this centre the drug addicts were released after three months only if their family paid 3000 yuan. Without payment the term would be extended to one or two years.
I once heard that the centre director's two sons both died a violent death. People who knew the facts called it karmic retribution.
4. Forced Labour Camp
These forced labour "re-education" camps are intended to combine labour with "education." But in Chinese labour camps, there is only labour without education. As the cadres, (1) the police at the forced labour camp describe their mission, "We educate people by labour." In fact, it is nothing but a money-making tool of the police department.
There are numerous reports on the Internet of how labour camps have treated Falun Dafa practitioners. The cadres secretly do many evil deeds. They have other inmates monitor or watch "untransformed" practitioners around the clock, but after some time many of the monitors become practitioners' friends. Some even help practitioners transmit information outside the camp. When the evildoers suspect this they change the monitor, but the result is the same. Many practitioners' monitors were changed more than ten times. In fact many inmates know that the cadre are evil.
The most common way to deal with "untransformed" practitioners is depriving them of sleep. They are put in a small cell every day, and brainwashed by one or two brainwashing specialists and cadre members. If the practitioner is sleepy, he will be pushed to wake him/her up. According to practitioners who experienced the process, it is somewhat like hypnotising, making one dazed, unable to think normally, so one is more apt to be brainwashed.
On the women's team, practitioners are not allowed to drink water, except for the small amount of water in the vegetables served at each meal. Sometimes they are beaten in secret, but the cadres deny everything.
There are all kinds of work in the labour camp, including making coloured lanterns, knitting sweaters, making cloth toys, embroidering slippers, and grinding gems. Other miscellaneous work varies with the season.
Stringing lantern beads, as I mentioned above, is part of making coloured lanterns. Making coloured lanterns is one of the main activities in the labour camp. During holidays there are decorations with lanterns and coloured banners everywhere. Can you imagine that most of the beautiful lanterns are made by inmates under extremely arduous conditions? It is the same with embroidered slippers, cloth toys, necklaces, strings of beads, the stones mounted in utensils, and so on.
The work assignments in the labour camp are the amount one can finish from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Some inmates can finish the assignment after dinner, but most need to work until 11:00 p.m. or midnight. It was once heard that someone on the women's team died from exhaustion. After that, the labour camp gave an order to stop work by 11:00 p.m.
But actually, every team forces inmates to secretly work past 11:00 p.m. For example, the inmates in the gem team had to get up at 5:00 a.m. and go to bed at 2:00 a.m. next day. Even so, the director stated in the monthly meetings, "Our team's output last month is less than some other teams. This month we need to make greater efforts."
Extending or reducing the terms of detainment is chaotic in the labour camps. Any cadre member can alter an inmate's term for any reason. The cadres arbitrarily extend the steadfast Falun Dafa practitioners' terms. However, after all the practitioners protested these actions, the cadres restrained themselves somewhat. Even so, every practitioner's term was extended, and some were extended the maximum of one year.
(1) Cadres are the police in charge of the forced labour camps in China
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