Flash: here is what Mr. Obama did not say: “Mr. Hu, Tear Down the Laogai !” He should have said it, publicly, loudly.
What is the Laogai ?
Laogai (simplified Chinese: 劳改; traditional Chinese: 勞改; pinyin: láogǎi), the abbreviation for Láodòng Gǎizào (勞動改造/劳动改造), which means “reform through labor,” is a slogan of the Chinese criminal justice system and has been used to refer to the use of prison labor and prison farms in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is estimated that in the last 50 years more than 50 million people have been sent to laogai camps.Laogai is distinguished from laojiao, or re-education through labor, which is an administrative detention for a person who is not a criminal but has committed minor offenses, and is intended to reform offenders into law-abiding citizens. Persons detained under laojiao are detained in facilities which are separate from the general prison system of laogai. Both systems, however, involve penal labor. (Wikipedia)
Laogai constitutes perhaps the single worst human rights outrage on earth today. It is probably the only large-scale remnant of the Soviet system. The indispensable source of information is the Laogai Research Foundation, led by Harry Wu, a former prisoner of the system.
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 !