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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No rice, just soup and ticks!

Laogai prisoners line up on routine for the captain's speech.

Most people resented the Holocaust, but something very similar still abodes. Since the peak in popularity of Maoism, the Chinese government has been unfairly forcing their citizens into hard labor. The system of penal labor proposed by the pro-Beijing communist party, and influenced by a now defunct soviet system, has over its half decade existence defined the true barrier of a cruel and unusual punishment. In Maoist society, all who express their personal freedom would be considered criminals under treason. They are deemed unsafe for society and would be sent to be indoctrinated. Harsh is an understatement when referring to the prisoners in a Laogai camp. Conditions are rough; imagine your world without toilet paper, a sink, or a shower, and how your life would be. According to a memoir written by Harry Wu, a former resident at a Laogai camp, prisoners are to wake up a 5am, and work from 5:30am to 6pm. He stated that water and food are limited in the camps with some laborers eating field mice, and sometimes the lice that infest their clothes during sleep. The typical meal for 364 days of the year is a loaf of cornbread, about half the size of a typical slice of Wonderbread and the occasional flower gruel or cabbage water. These meals usually occur twice a day, but sometimes one if your productivity doesn't meet the designated quota. Compare this to a typical American prison ration which consists of things most people in poverty would die to get their hands on. Illness and disease are also very common, due to the lack of nutrition, poor hygiene, and transmitted diseases from the parasites. Despite their illnesses, prisoners are still forced to work their full shift.

This type of punishment should be designed for the more violent crimes. In China, these crimes usually result in capital punishment but a simple insulting remark to the government can lead you to Hell. In America, mass murderers are allowed to take in the luxury doing nothing, but reading and eating. American prisoners are basically permitted to live for free while Chinese prisoners are executed immediately without question. Laogai does generate a boatload of revenue for the Chinese government however it comes with the cost of famine, disease, and death. Mass murderers, child sex offenders, and terrorists are useless to society, yet the US Government still forces the taxpayers to house them? This makes little logical sense. The death penalty is a fine way to overcome problems like these, however it sparks more problems such as conflicting with the eighth amendment, as well as the extent of reasonable doubt (could the condemned be innocent?). Until a logically sufficient solution is found to capital punishment, Laogai is a killer idea for the US penal system.

For multiple decades, Laogai has been hiding under the covers, invisible to the public. This is highly due to the lack of immigrants from the mainland to tell the story. This all changed during the late 80s and early 90s, when former Laogai resident Harry Wu was offered a student visa to walk on US soil. Wu, with little money, ended up working odd jobs until finally writing his first memoir regarding Laogai. This was done using the resources listed at Stanford's East Asian Studies department. This novel was one of the first memoirs of Laogai documented in the English language. His book gave recognition to many American politicians, some even contacting Wu for further details. Meanwhile, Wu also started the Laogai Research Foundation which focused on gathering evidence of the Chinese gulag. Due to his work, the US has created sanctions against goods manufactured in China by penal labor.

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