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Electric batons. Force-feeding. Slave labor. These are accounts published in China-based Lens Magazine of what happened inside China’s most notorious women’s labor camp: Masanjia. Overseas media, including NTD, have reported on Masanjia for years. But this is the first time a media inside mainland China has dared to publish an exposé like this.
And that’s lent credibility to the gruesome accounts of torture—that have shocked even seasoned scholars.
[Ma Yong, Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences] “I was shocked after reading it. I couldn’t imagine this happening. In the 21st century, something like this could happen. I’m not sure why the information was allowed to be published. It’s been spread online and hasn’t been taken down.”
The article is called “Walking Out of Masanjia.” It’s based on a detailed handwritten diary by former inmate Liu Hua. Another inmate smuggled it out for her in September 2011—though it’s unclear what’s happened now to Liu Hua herself.
According to the article, Masanjia inmates are forced to work up to 14 hours a day, making cotton pants and other clothing. They can have only three bathroom breaks a day. They’re punished just for complaining. Some are forced to stay in tiny rooms with no ventilation for several days at a time. Others are shocked with electric batons, or forced to sit on the painful “Tiger Bench.”
Lens Magazine is a subsidiary of Caijing magazine, an often-daring financial publication that pushes the boundaries of reporting within China’s censorship.
Stories of torture at Masanjia first came out 13 years ago in media overseas. In October 2000, overseas rights groups reported that 18 female inmates were stripped naked and forced inside a male prison cell. They were raped and at least five died. The women were Falun Gong practitioners.
The abuse of Falun Gong is one key detail the Lens Magazine article left out—possibly to make sure the article didn’t get censored.
Since 1999, the Chinese regime has persecuted the spiritual practice. In fact, since 2000, this US-based website has released more than 8,000 articles about torture that took place in Masanjia labor camp—all directed at Falun Gong practitioners.
[Jia Yuanliang, War Veterans Advocate] “Now that this is being exposed, it cannot be covered up anymore. After people found out about it, many expressed strong condemnation towards Masanjia. China’s labor camp system no longer fits the current society. It should be abolished as soon as possible.”
“Walking Out of Masanjia” has so far not been censored on the Chinese Internet. Some observers believe its publication is a precursor to a wider exposure of the abuse that goes on in China’s labor camps.