The re-education through labor system has been around for 57 years, during which time it has been an infection on the carcass of China's legal system that will not heal. Now we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Lens Magazine has turned its focus on the Masanjia Women's Womens Re-Education Through Labor Facility, and through research and interviews with various parties, tries to give readers an overview of how those subjected to re-education through labor live their lives behind those high walls. Its not possible to capture all of the various circumstances in this 20,000 word report, much less the four words "Re-eduction Through Labor."
In early February 2013, a woman petitioner who had recently been released from re-eduction through labor found Wang Zhen, from Dalian, and passed him a "letter of appeal" written in tiny characters on wrinkled paper. This was an open letter sent from the re-education through labor facility calling for the elimination of re-education through labor, and the signatories included Wang Zhen's wife, Liu Yuling. Liu Yuling had been sentenced to re-education through labor in August, 2012, was still being held at the Masanjia re-education through labor facility in Liaoning.
长达57年的劳教制度，是中国法治社会躯体上经久不愈的病灶，眼下终于即将走到终点。Lens杂志以辽宁马三家女子劳教所为观察点，根据多条线索、对不同身份者的采访，约略还原劳教人员在高墙内的生活轨迹。个中情形，既非“劳动教养”四字所能概括，也非这组两万多字的报道所可尽言。These screenshots show that the introduction, originally available here - http://www.lensmagazine.com.cn/reporting/focus/7607.html - has since been removed from the website.
On April 11, the state-sponsored China Women's Daily published an article entitled "Facing the Truth, Promoting Reform of the Re-education Through Labor System - A Chat With Journalist Yuan Ling, Author of 'Leaving Masanjia'." (直面真相 推动劳教制度改革 对话《走出“马三家”》采写记者袁凌). Some excerpts:
The report reflected how the Masanjia re-education through labor facility illegally accepted those who were severely ill and those who had lost the ability to work, forcing them to perform excessively strenuous work. Petitioners sentenced to re-education through labor are subjected to punishments in mandated by re-education through labor such as "instruction rooms," handcuffs, and electric prods. They are also subjected to things invented at the Masanjia re-education through labor facility, such as handcuff extended to allow for "hanging," "torture racks," and force-feeding and restraining "death beds" for re-education through labor prisoners who go on hunger strike. Things that simply cannot be expressed in just four words: "re-education through labor."
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Reporter: What things left the deepest impression on you in the process of writing the article?
Yuan Ling: It was the first time I heard a woman re-education through labor prisoner talk about "stretching," "torture racks," and "death beds." At the time she was already crippled, and half her body wouldn't work normally, it was all withered like a tree. But when she talked about her experiences, her eyes just lit up, like she was gaining spiritual support just trying to put it into words. It just so happened that she wasn't from Masanjia, she was from Heilongjiang. Later on I understood that everything she talked about was also happening in the Masanjia re-education through labor facility. That proved that "stretching," "torture racks," and "death beds" weren't unique to the Masanjia re-education through labor facility.
My meeting with Mei Qiuyu also left a pretty deep impression. She strikes you as very warm, virtuous, and vulnerable southern woman. She is not like your average petitioner, and manages to retain a kind of gentle dignity, despite all of the trials life has thrown at her. She is very attentive, and knows how to pickle vegetables and make tofu. She experienced extreme violence at the re-education through labor facility, and in her you see a woman's delicacy and perseverance.
Afterwards, I talked on the phone with a prisoner in a Liaoning re-education through labor facility. Her experience was pretty common: "stretching," "instruction rooms," "torture racks," "death beds," it seemed like she had suffered every kind of punishment, and now she's missing one of her front teeth. At the time, one of woman editors overheard a bit of the conversation and stood up and walked out. After the interview was over, she told me the interview was too terrifying, and made her shake with fear. If it had all been written out, there would have been know way anyone could read it all the way through. In fact, the person I was interviewing was also a woman, and at the time we were just calmly discussing some details over the phone. When an ordinary woman is faced with this, she feels extremely terrified, and can't bear it. You can imagine how the things those women experienced in the re-education through labor facilities must weigh very heavily, even as they remain very calm as they describe it.
Reporter: Those women that you wrote about and met who were imprisoned in the Masanjia re-education through labor facility, what is it that brought them together?
Yuan Ling: Many of them were petitioners. At the very begining they were all very ordinary. For example, Wang Guilan was a seamstress, and Wang Yuping was a high level businesswoman. They each had their own reasons for petitioning, running up against various circumstances that could not be resolved that led them to petition, and because of their petitioning they were sentenced to re-education through labor. This in turn led to ever deeper feelings of agitation. There are fundamental problems with the petitioning and re-education through labor systems, and this happens against a backdrop of a legal system that is incomplete. Would they need to go out and petition if they were able to use legal channels and get court judgment in a lawsuit that is reasonable and just? Their rights can't be guaranteed. Their lives are changed because of petitioning and re-education through labor.
报道反映了马三家女子劳教所违规接收严重患病或丧失劳动能力者，被劳教人员在劳教所中超强度劳动。因上访被劳教者遭受见于劳教规定的惩戒室（“小号”）、手铐、电棍等惩戒措施，还遭受马三家劳教所各种名目的发明，如手铐延伸使用的“大挂”、“老虎凳”、对绝食的劳教人员灌食和控制的“死人床”等。个中情形，远非“劳动教养”四字所能传达。These screenshots show that the article, originally available here - http://www.china-woman.com/rp/main?fid=open&fun=show_news&from=view&nid=93241&ctype=3 - has since been deleted.
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This screenshot shows that China Women's Daily deleted its entire April 11 edition from its web site.
The report was also deleted from several other web sites where it was reposted:
These screenshots were taken on April 12, 2013, and show that Baidu has banned users from setting up PostBar (Tieba - 贴吧) forums on "Masanjia" (马三家) and "Re-eduction Through Labor" (劳教).
These screenshots were taken on the same day, and show that searches for "Masanjia" and "Re-education Through Labor Facility" (劳教所) on Tencent Weibo returned no results, just a censorship notice.
This screenshot was taken the same day, and shows that searches on Sina Weibo for "Women's Re-education Through Labor Facility" (女子劳教所) return no results, just a censorship notice.