Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Book Reviews -- the Chinese Gulag by Hongda Harry Wu Lao

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Book Reviews -- the Chinese Gulag by Hongda Harry Wu Lao

Article excerpt

The massacre in Tiananmen Square shattered the assumptions of many observers who had looked upon the Chinese Communist government in Beijing as idealist reformers. Lao's The Chinese Gulag will further disabuse readers of any notion of benevolent rulers in China, as it details the forced labor camps spread throughout the country.

The author knows his subject intimately. Following his arrest by the Chinese Communist authorities, he spent nineteen years in twelve different camps in northern China. He has given a matter-of fact description of his and his fellow-prisoners' plight but he does not conceal the harsh brutality of prisons whose residents were tortured and murdered merely for criticizing the government or for participating in protests. Wu, for example, was apprehended for expressing "counter-revolutionary opinions" during the anti-rightist campaign of 1957. The book gains added perspective and significance, since the author, who came to the U.S. in 2985, risked his life to return to China and, under various disguises, revisited some of these same camps in 1991.

Among the book's many interesting expositions is the political background of the institution "re-education through labor." In 1956 the Chinese Communists initiated a "liquidate counter-revolutionaries movement" in which labor camps were established and political prisoners incarcerated. …

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