Stuff you don't usually get news about: forced labour camps in China, an insiders' look:
BEIJING--They're stripped of their dignity, forced to toil at monotonous work and suffer the embarrassment of wearing clothes stained with their excrement.
And many of them still don't know why they were forced to endure such punishment.
They are former inmates of China's re-education-through-labor system, a practice that has been harshly criticized as a gross violation of human rights. Authorities, however, consider it an important measure to maintain public order.
Under the system, citizens accused of disturbing public order can be detained based solely on the judgment of labor management committees, which are actually operated by the police.
Periods of incarceration are for up to three years. However, one-year extensions are also possible.
Many citizens critical of the government are taken into custody and sentenced to forced labor under this system.
Ye Jinghuan, 57, a career woman working for a Beijing-based foreign company, experienced the harsh conditions of her "re-education."
She and others had often gathered in front of the China Central Television station in central Beijing to protest the government over bankruptcy proceedings for a company that they had invested in.
On each occasion, the police were informed of the time the demonstration.
In March 2007, police accompanied Ye from her home to the protest site, where she was joined by 15 associates.
After about 15 minutes had passed, Ye was unexpectedly taken into custody by the police as the suspected leader of the protest and sent to a detention house.
There was no trial and she wasn't immediately informed why she was being detained. In April, she was charged with "disrupting social order" and sentenced to 21 months at a re-education-through-labor camp.
"The police told me I would be released if I admitted to the crime they had investigated. However, it wasn't made clear what crime I had committed, so I refused. I was probably sent to the labor camp because they were unable to prosecute me with any crime," she said.
She was transferred to a facility on the outskirts of the city along with six other women. They were ordered to squat down by the man in charge who was called "captain" and were given short haircuts.
Ye was assigned to a room with six bunk beds and metal bars over the window. The youngest of her cellmates was 16 and serving time for prostitution. The oldest, 70, was in for practicing Falun Gong, which was banned.
The room was monitored with surveillance cameras, and the inmates were not permitted to go within a meter of the door or window.
The next morning, a strand of hair stuck to Ye's neck when she washed her face. When she tried to wipe it away with water, a guard screamed at her, "When did you get permission to wash your neck!"
She asked for permission but was denied. "I haven't done anything wrong. Why do I have to suffer through all this unpleasantness? This is nothing but forced obedience, an attempt to completely crush my dignity as a person," she said she thought at the time.
Like the other inmates, she was only allowed to use the restroom four times a day: 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Inmates were not allowed to have bowel movements during the 6 a.m. slot.
On occasion, Ye had to defecate in her pants.
Inmates rose at 6 a.m. and the lights were turned off at 10 p.m.
(This gets rather long, so the rest is at the source)