The Laogai of China

Chongqing (AsiaNews/CHRD)

New Yorkers who understand French can subscribe to the French TV network TV 5 Monde and often get information that American media ignore. So tonight we heard about the ongoing totalitarian repression in China, something that should not have surprised me, but it did, just because we do not hear much about it. It’s not a secret, there is quite a bit of information on the internet, yet for all the American public knows, “Laogai” may as well be a secret. There are millions — perhaps as many as seven million — prisoners in forced labor camps all over China. The Chinese bureaucratic term Laogai, “reform through labor,” has now entered European languages to mean what it in fact is: brutal political and cultural repression There is a Laogai Research Foundation, a Laogai Museum in Washington (whose founder was Harry Wu), and a small band of human rights activists who take an interest. The prisoners are persons suspected of political or cultural or religious incorrectness, or in some cases are people who have committed criminal acts.

Could we perhaps get Ms. Clinton to think about Laogai the next time she hobnobs with Chinese Communist diplomats ? Or perhaps Mr. Obama might keep it mind at some diplomatic cocktail party, while sipping a cocktail with the Chinese ambassador ? He should be warned that a Chinese Communist diplomat in Berlin became furious and abusive after the Bundestag voted to condemn Laogai a couple of years ago.

Update, Nov. 17, 2009. Harry Wu to Obama: remember human rights on your visit !

2 thoughts on “The Laogai of China”

  1. how about getting the “Human Rights” NGOs to peel themselves off of Israel for a second and pay attention to this… not just with an email, or a brief mention, but a full-fledged press conference.
    or is lack of access making it hard to “document…”?

  2. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue Mr. Cohn. Our foundation is working hard to ensure that “laogai” becomes as reviled a term as “gulag” or “concentration camp.” You and your readers can support our organization and read more by visiting We have a blog there, and a facebook page you can to and receive updates on our work. Thanks! Nicole Kempton, Washington Director, Laogai Research Foundation

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