Communism has proven over the past century to have mastered the art of the doublespeak and this article from the New York Times notes it in relation to the prisoners in labor camps who are called students, which also may be how Communist countries proclaim they imprison less than the U.S.; just call prisoners something else.
“MASANJIA, China — The cry for help, a neatly folded letter stuffed inside a package of Halloween decorations sold at Kmart, traveled 5,000 miles from China into the hands of a mother of two in Oregon.
“Scrawling in wobbly English on a sheet of onionskin paper, the writer said he was imprisoned at a labor camp in this northeastern Chinese town, where he said inmates toiled seven days a week, their 15-hour days haunted by sadistic guards.
“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” said the note, which was tucked between two ersatz tombstones and fell out when the woman, Julie Keith, opened the box in her living room last October. “Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”
“The letter drew international news media coverage and widespread attention to China’s opaque system of “re-education through labor,” a collection of penal colonies where petty criminals, religious offenders and critics of the government can be given up to four-year sentences by the police without trial.
“But the letter writer remained a mystery, the subject of speculation over whether he or she was a real inmate or a creative activist simply trying to draw attention to the issue.
“Last month, though, during an interview to discuss China’s labor camps, a 47-year-old former inmate at the Masanjia camp said he was the letter’s author. The man, a Beijing resident and adherent of Falun Gong, the outlawed spiritual practice, said it was one of 20 such letters he secretly wrote over the course of two years. He then stashed them inside products whose English-language packaging, he said, made it likely they were destined for the West….
“Corinna-Barbara Francis, China researcher at Amnesty International, said that abolishing or significantly reforming re-education through labor would prove daunting because it provides the police an easy way to deal with perceived troublemakers, but also because it can be lucrative for those who work within a sprawling system that includes more than 300 camps. In addition to the profits earned from the inmate labor, prison employees often solicit bribes for early release, or for better treatment, from the families of those incarcerated. “Given the serious money being made in these places, the economic incentive to keep the system going is really powerful,” she said.
“During labor shortages, inmates say Masanjia officials simply buy small-time offenders from other cities on a sliding scale that begins at 800 renminbi, or about $130, for six months of labor. They include people like Zhang Ling, a 25-year-old from the eastern coastal city of Dalian who said she was among a group of 50 young women rounded up by the police last May during a crackdown on illegal pyramid sales schemes and then sold to Masanjia. While there, she sewed buttons on military uniforms but was released 10 months early after a brother paid for her release.
“Masanjia officials did not respond to faxes and phone calls requesting an interview. Approached one recent afternoon, a half-dozen guards on a cigarette break outside the women’s work camp refused to answer any questions. One guard, however, made a point of correcting the way a question was phrased. “There are no prisoners here,” she said sternly. “They are all students.”