Old Communists Have New Tricks to Repress Citizens

By Wagner, David | Insight on the News, March 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Old Communists Have New Tricks to Repress Citizens


Wagner, David, Insight on the News


Forced-labor camps have been government policy since the Cultural Revolution. The People's Republic continues to use a population-control program and religious repression to subjugate its masses.

As China spreads its financial influence deeper into the U.S. economy, voices are assuring us that the human-rights situation in that country is improving. After all, doesn't a rise in human-rights standards always accompany westernization of an economy?

Actually, according to many experts on the internal situation in China, that is one of the hoariest myths in the propaganda book.

"Capitalism must never be equated with democracy," writes Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in China's dreaded Laogai ("reform through labor") camps, in his new book Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty. "This is a very American belief--that making money produces freedom and justice and equality. Don't believe it about China. My homeland is mired in thousands of years of rule by one bully at a time, whether you call him emperor or chairman. Don't be fooled by electronics or air-conditioning."

Now an American citizen, Wu repeatedly has returned to China incognito to gather documentation on the camps, where unpaid prisoners make goods for export, including some of those inexpensive household appliances that seem omnipresent in U.S. stores. Wu estimates that 50 million people have been sent to the Laogai camps since 1949.

The Chinese government continues to impose a draconian population-control program on its citizens, limiting them to one child per couple. This policy is backed up by mandatory abortions or sterilization in case of subsequent pregnancies. The Chinese government attributes forced abortion to "overzealous" local cadres, but observers such as Steven Mosher, who lived in China as an anthropology graduate student from Stanford, says the cadres become "overzealous" because they are under pressure from higher levels of government to show "progress" in reaching population "goals."

Mosher's research in China led to his book,A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against One-Child China. Journalists later confirmed his reports. In July 1995, three women and a man who had fled China and were seeking admission to the United States as refugees testified before the House subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, telling of being harassed by government agents until they submitted to abortion or sterilization. The chairman of the subcommittee, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, has called attention to China's inhumane policies in every possible forum, noting that forced abortion was branded a "crime against humanity" at the Nuremberg trials.

The one-child policy, underscored by the widespread preference of couples for sons to provide support in their old age, has led to a crisis in abandonment of female children. In January 1996, Human Right Watch/Asia released a report on Chinese orphanages, charging that man, of these abandoned girls are tied to beds or strapped to toddler chairs in freezing rooms. …

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