This is a Wish—May It Not Turn into Despair Again:

February 28, 2013
[English Translation by Human Rights in China]

Deputies to the National People’s Congress and Members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference:

It has been almost 24 years since the earthshaking June Fourth Massacre. The Fourth Generation Leadership has already ushered in the Fifth Generation, headed by Xi Jinping. In a few days, the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will convene a new session, and elect a new president of the Peoples’ Republic of China and new chairs of the NPC Standing Committee and of the CPPCC.

But for the past 23 years, the issue of June Fourth 1989—which has been raised every year and has drawn attention from the international community—has unfortunately been suppressed by our leaders generation after generation, who have all refused to account for the incident publicly.

Today, as a new generation of leaders takes office, we, the Tiananmen Mothers, as relatives of the victims of the June Fourth tragedy, ask once again that our new leaders make up for the mistakes of past leaders, and deal with the issue in a courageous way that will endure the test of time.

This is our wish—may it not turn into despair again

On the eve of the Two Congresses, we urge the deputies of the NPC and members of the CPPCC to focus on and discuss this matter, and make advancing a just solution to the June Fourth issue your bounden duty.

In December of last year, in a talk during his tour of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xi Jinping raised these questions: "Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party fall from power?” He viewed the wavering of ideals and convictions among the people to be an important reason, and, as a result, the Soviet Union lost the military and the tools for maintaining a dictatorship. At the very end, with just one quiet sentence, Gorbachev announced the dissolution of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In such a huge party, Xi Jinping said, "there was not one single person man enough to come out to resist."

In this talk, he did not mention June Fourth, but the “June Fourth” issue was ever present. On the one hand is China’s June Fourth, on the other is the Soviet Union's “8-19” [August 19, 1991, the day of mass civil resistance in Moscow that is considered to have contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union]. The two major historical events occurred within only two years, but the outcomes were completely different. The question before China’s leaders is: Ultimately, was the June Fourth crackdown an experience? Or a lesson? It is impossible that they have not thought about this question—a question that is even harder for us, the victims of the June Fourth tragedy, to forget. In fact, the great changes that occurred in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe in those years took the June Fourth massacre as a warning: that a regime that relies on machine guns and tanks is not sustainable.

Then, who were the men in China that year? They were definitely not those who mobilized the armed forces to implement the bloody crackdown ordered by Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng. Rather, it was Zhao Ziyang, who opposed the mobilization of troops by Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng to suppress protestors, and, for that, was confined by Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, and their successors for fifteen full years—during which he never acquiesced or engaged in self-criticism—until he died quietly. It was Wang Weiping, a recent graduate from Peking University’s Health and Science Center, who repeatedly rescued the wounded who were left in piles at the site of the June Fourth massacre, and who was later killed by a bullet in her neck. It was Liu Fenggeng, a Beijing worker who repeatedly carried the wounded to the hospital on a wooden plank, and who was himself later carried by others into the hospital as he himself stopped breathing. It was Fang Zheng, a graduate of Beijing Sport University whose legs were crushed by an army tank as he was trying to rescue his fallen comrade, who later struggled to survive and was ultimately forced out of the country. These are China’s real men. In the June Fourth tragedy, those individuals are inspiring and tragic, and they were unafraid of death—but there were so many more of them! These sons and daughters of China, confident in their actions, not timid, who came forth one after another to take a stand to fight for their ideals, but were repeatedly broken down and blotted out, and were ultimately disappeared into the vast darkness.

In the past half century, there have been countless numbers of outstanding people—young ones and those in the prime of life—men and women, who silently lay down in pools of blood and bade farewell to the land that raised and nurtured them. These scenes after scenes of deaths and bloodstain have cast a shadow on the Chinese people that will never disappear. Can it be that all the achievements of the Communist Party of China must come at the price of the lives of millions?

In the Chinese political arena, there have always been those in power who are too conceited and who always believe: if you have guns, artillery, and tanks, you will not be overthrown. They always believe: if you have power, influence, and money, you will never be overthrown. They never believe: everyone possesses a sense of fairness and reason, and a regime rises when it gains the will of the people, and falls when it loses it. They will also never believe: When you lose legitimacy, it’s all over.

It has been almost 24 years since June Fourth 1989. People have calmed down to consider the lessons they learned from their painful experience; their thinking has become more probing and rational. Today, China must not hesitate to implement political reform; but this is by no means to continue political reform under the one-party dictatorship. Otherwise, China will turn back three decades to the time before Reform and Opening up. In order to undertake reform, the issue of June Fourth must be solved, as it is at the heart of reform. Recalling the 50-day long Tiananmen Democracy Movement, there were two resounding slogans on the Square, one was “We Want Freedom, We Want Democracy," and the other was "Oppose Profiteering! Oppose Corruption!" Today, not only have the two problems not been solved, but they have worsened to the utmost. Therefore, in order to implement political reform, it is necessary to go in the same direction as the Tiananmen Democracy Movement and firmly grasp and solve these two main issues of our time. Other than that, China has nowhere to go.

Solving the June Fourth problem depends on the outcome of repeated contests among the various political factions and various political forces at home and abroad, and on a fundamental consensus reached on the various political demands between the ruling and opposition parties. However, that consensus does not yet exist. It has to depend on the dialogue and negotiation between the people and the government.

As victims of June Fourth and the Tiananmen Mothers, we are filled with confidence and have sufficient patience because even when our generation passes away there will still be the next generation. Our three demands remain the same:

  1. That the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress form a dedicated June Fourth investigation committee and conduct an independent and fair investigation on the entire June Fourth incident, and that it furthermore make public the results of the investigation to the entire nation, including the names and numbers of those who died in the incident;
  2. That the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress instruct the departments in charge to issue individual explanations to the relatives of each deceased person in accordance with the statutory procedures; the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress should also draft and adopt a “June Fourth Incident Victim Compensation Bill” and give the victims and their relatives appropriate compensation in accordance with the law;
  3. That the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress order the Procuratorial Bureau to file the case and investigate the June Fourth tragedy, and to affix legal responsibility and prosecute those responsible in accordance with the statutory procedures.

The three demands above can be summarized in these three words: Truth, compensation, accountability.

We have also declared many times: the problems left behind by the June Fourth incident must be dealt with by upholding the principles of peace and reason, and in a democratic and legal way. It cannot be handled according to the will of any party or individual, and not in the manner of “rehabilitations and exonerations” which were carried out by the government unilaterally in the wake of previous political movements. We realize that we ourselves should fight for and defend our own rights and dignity, including the rights and dignity of our dead relatives, and should not rely on others’ charity. To this end, we are asking the National People's Congress to, in accordance with the law, to make a special motion to introduce the June Fourth issue to the General Assembly for discussion and deliberation, and come to a decision in an effort to fairly solve the June Fourth issue. This proposal can be summed up as a" legal solution to a political issue.” We believe that, the only feasible way to solve the June Fourth issue is through legislative and judicial procedures.

On the eve of the convening of the National People's Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, we once again raise the June Fourth issue, and reiterate our position and demands. We believe that the circumstances are more powerful than people’s will. Deputies and members—please understand that! Please think and think again!


丁子霖 Ding Zilin 张先玲 Zhang Xianling 周淑庄 Zhou Shuzhuang
李雪文 Li Xuewen 徐 珏 Xu Jue 尹 敏 Yin Min
杜东旭 Du Dongxu 宋秀玲 Song Xiuling 于 清 Yu Qing
郭丽英 Guo Liying 蒋培坤 Jiang Peikun 王范地 Wang Fandi
赵廷杰 Zhao Tingjie 吴定富 Wu Dingfu 钱普泰 Qian Putai
孙承康 Sun Chengkang 尤维洁 You Weijie 黄金平 Huang Jinping
贺田凤 He Tianfeng 孟淑英 Meng Shuying 袁淑敏 Yuan Shumin
刘梅花 Liu Meihua 谢京花 Xie Jinghua 马雪琴 Ma Xueqin
邝瑞荣 Kuang Ruirong 张艳秋 Zhang Yanqiu 张树森 Zhang Shusen
杨大榕 Yang Darong 刘秀臣 Liu Xiuchen 沈桂芳 Shen Guifang
谢京荣 Xie Jingrong 孙 宁 Sun Ning 王文华 Wang Wenhua
金贞玉 Jin Zhenyu 要福荣 Yao Furong 孟淑珍 Meng Shuzhen
田淑玲 Tian Shuling 邵秋风 Shao Qiufeng 王桂荣 Wang Guirong
谭汉凤 Tan Hanfeng 孙恒尧 Sun Hengyao 陈 梅 Chen Mei
周 燕 Zhou Yan 李桂英 Li Guiying 徐宝艳 Xu Baoyan
狄孟奇 Di Mengqi 管卫东 Guan Weidong 高 婕 Gao Jie
刘淑琴 Liu Shuqin 王双兰 Wang Shuanglan 张振霞 Zhang Zhenxie
祝枝弟 Zhu Zhidi 刘天媛 Liu Tianyuan 黄定英 Huang Dingying
何瑞田 He Ruitian 程淑珍 Cheng Shuzhen 郝义传 Hao Yichuan
任金宝 Ren Jinbao 田维炎 Tian Weiyan 杨志玉 Yang Zhiyu
齐国香 Qi Guoxiang 李显远 Li Xianyuan 张彩凤 Zhang Caifeng
王玉芹 Wang Yuqin 韩淑香 Han Shuxiang 曹长先 Cao Changxian
方 政 Fang Zheng 齐志勇 Qi Zhiyong 冯友祥 Feng Youxiang
何兴才 He Yingcai 刘仁安 Liu Ren’an 熊 辉 Xiong Hui
韩国刚 Han Guogang 石 峰 Shi Feng 庞梅清 Pang Meiqing
黄 宁 Huang Ning 王伯冬 Wang Bodong 张志强 Zhang Zhiqiang
赵金锁 Zhao Jinsuo 孔维真 Kong Weizhen 刘保东 Liu Baodong
陆玉宝 Lu Yubao 陆马生 Lu Masheng 齐志英 Qi Zhiying
方桂珍 Fang Guizhen 肖书兰 Xiao Shulan 葛桂荣 Ge Guirong
郑秀村 Zheng Xiucun 王惠蓉 Wang Huirong 邢承礼 Xing Chengli
桂德兰 Gui Delan 王运启 Wang Yunqi 黄雪芬 Huang Xuefen
王 琳 Wang Lin 刘 乾 Liu Qian 朱镜蓉 Zhu Jingrong
金亚喜 Jin Yaxi 周国林 Zhou Guolin 王争强 Wang Zhengqiang
吴立虹 Wu Lihong 宁书平 Ning Shuping 郭达显 Guo Daxian
曹云兰 Cao Yunlan 隋立松 Sui Lisong 王广明 Wang Guangming
冯淑兰 Feng Shulan 穆怀兰 Mu Huailan 付媛媛 Fu Yuanyuan
孙淑芳 Sun Shufang 王 连 Wang Lian 李春山 Li Chunshan
蒋艳琴 Jiang Yanqin 何凤亭 He Fengting 谭淑琴 Tan Shuqin
肖宗友 Xiao Zongyou 乔秀兰 Qiao Xiulan 张桂荣 Zhang Guirong
雷 勇 Lei Yong 陆燕京 Lu Yanjing 李浩泉 Li Haoquan
孙珊萍 Sun Shanping 林武云 Lin Wuyun 奚永顺 Xi Yongshun

(123 total)

In accordance with suggestions by our fellow victims, we have decided to also include the names of our fellow signers from previous years who have since passed away, so as to honor their last wishes:

吴学汉 Wu Xuehan 苏冰娴 Su Bingxian 姚瑞生 Yao Ruisheng
杨世钰 Yang Shiyu 袁长录 Yuan Changlu 周淑珍 Zhou Shuzhen
王国先 Wang Guoxian 包玉田 Bao Yutian 林景培 Lin Jingpei
寇玉生 Kou Yusheng 孟金秀 Meng Jinxiu 张俊生 Zhang Junsheng
吴守琴 Wu Shouqin

周治刚 Zhou Zhigang

孙秀芝 Sun Xiuzhi
罗 让 Luo Rang 严光汉 Yan Guanghan 李贞英 Li Zhenying
邝涤清 Kuang Diqing 段宏炳 Duan Hongbing 刘春林 Liu Chunlin
张耀祖 Zhang Yaozu 李淑娟 Li Shujuan 杨银山 Yang Yinshan
王培靖 Wang Peijing 袁可志 Yuan Kezhi 潘木治 Pan Muzhi
萧昌宜 Xiao Changyi 轧伟林 Zha Weilin 刘建兰 Liu Jianlan
索秀女 Suo Xiunü 杨子明 Yang Ziming

(32 total)


Laogai Research Foundation
The Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) was established in 1992 by Laogai survivor, Harry Wu, to gather information on and raise public awareness of the Laogai—China's extensive system of forced-labor prison camps. LRF also works to document and publicize other systemic human rights violations in China, including executions and the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners, the coercive enforcement of China's "one-child" population control policy, and Internet censorship and surveillance. LRF serves as an authoritative source for journalists, researchers, politicians, and other human rights organizations on human rights in China generally and the Laogai and forced labor in China specifically.
Harry Wu, Founder
Laogai Museum Front Desk

Harry Wu knows firsthand the atrocious conditions of the Laogai. In 1960, Wu was imprisoned at the age of 23 for criticizing the Communist Party, and subsequently spent 19 years toiling in the factories, mines, and fields of the Laogai.

He was released in 1979 and came to the US in 1985 with just $40 in his pocket. Since then, he has traveled back to China multiple times to further invesitgate Laogai camps and continue his call for human rights in China.

Wu founded the Laogai Research Foundation in 1992 to gather information on and raise public awareness of the Chinese Laogai.

LRF's mission is to document and expose the Laogai, China's vast and brutal system of forced labor prison camps, and to promote education, advocacy, and dialogue about China's human rights issues.
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Laogai Museum Front Desk

The Laogai Museum is the first museum in the U.S. to directly address human rights in China. It is the hope of the Laogai Research Foundation that the Laogai Museum will preserve the memory of the Laogai's countless victims and serve to educate the public about the atrocities committed by China's Communist regime. First founded in 2008 with the support of the Yahoo! Human rights Fund, the museum reopened in its present location in 2011, becoming a place for human rights victims and advocates to reach out to a larger audience.

The Laogai Research Foundation
1734 20th Street, Northwest
Washington, DC 20009

We are two blocks north of Dupont Circle Metro's North Exit on the Red Line (corner of 20th and S Streets).

Free 2-hour and metered street parking is available throughout the neighborhood.

Hours of Operation

Monday – Friday 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 05:00 PM

(202) 730-9308


The Laogai Archives are in the offices of the Laogai Research Foundation in Washington, DC.

Due to the suppression of free speech within China, much of the material housed within the Laogai Archives is not available to researchers in mainland China. Thus, the Laogai Archives are in a unique position to support academics, journalists, students, and activists in freely conducting research on human rights in China.

  1. What is the Laogai?
    The Laogai is the People’s Republic of China’s prison system. The name of the system is derived from the Chinese expression, laodong gaizao (勞動改造) meaning “reform through labor”. Generally referred to as labor reform camps (勞改隊), the prison system’s structure was developed by the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong. Modeled on the Soviet Gulag, the prison forces prisoners to do hard labor and gives them “political reeducation” to reform their thoughts and behaviors. The PRC also uses the Laogai as a source of free labor for various work, from infrastructure construction and mining, to farming and manufacturing. Through a variety of prison enterprises, the Chinese government earns income off the backs of Laogai prisoners.
    The Chinese definition of the Laogai entails six components.
      “Reform through labor camps or brigades” house officially convicted and sentenced criminals.

      In 1994, the Chinese government stopped using the word of “laogai,” instead it restored the traditional name of jianyu (prison). But the nature of the laogai system as a tool of rerpression remains the same.

      “Reeducation through labor facilities” house prisoners under “administrative discipline,” meaning that they may be sentenced to up to three years of forced labor without ever having been charged or tried.

      Detention centers house prisoners who are awaiting trial or have gone through a trial but the sentenced prison term is less than one year. They too can be forced to labor.

      Juvenile offender facilities house adolescent convicts or reeducation through labor detainees. In 1983, a regulation was issued that decreased the age from 16 to 14 years old at which children can be sent to reeducation through labor camps.

      These facilities were for prisoners who had served out their sentences but were deemed “not completely reformed.” Such prisoners had to stay in the same prison facility, facing the same conditions, and performing the same work just as when they were formal prisoners. The CCP ceased the forced job placement system in the early 1980s.
  2. How is the Laogai different from other prison systems?

    Because of international attention to human rights violations in the Laogai in the early 1990s, the Chinese Communist Party has attempted to create the impression that the Laogai is only a prison system for detaining, punishing, and reforming criminals. It was for this reason that in 1994, the CCP ordered that Laogai, meaning “reform through labor,” no longer be used in government documents. Instead, the system’s institutions were to be called jianyu, “prison.” However, contrary to CCP propaganda, the Laogai is different from prison systems in other countries. Laogai inmates are forced to labor and forced to do brain wash. What is more, they are unprotected by law, including laws against torture and abuse, as can be seen in the following section “Difference in Conditions.” The Laogai system also strengthens the CCP’S control by suppressing dissent among the Chinese people. The Laogai is an integral part of China’s economy, providing an abundance of free labor for manufacturing goods sold in both domestic and international markets.
    The conditions that persist in the Laogai constitute an additional distinction between it and other prison systems, with the Laogai perpetuating many of China’s most serious human rights abuses.

  3. Who has suffered in the Laogai?
  4. What is the political function of the Laogai system?
    Besides punishing criminals, the Laogai serves as a tool of political repression. China sentences outspoken critics of CCP policy to imprisonment in the Laogai to quell dissent. Suspects punishable by means of laogai or prison terms include the previous “anti-revolutionaries” and present-day “endangering state security” according to the Criminal Law. Suspects punishable by means of Re-education Through Labor according to the CCP’S “Measures for Reeducation through Labor (1957)” include, “counterrevolutionary and anti-socialist reactionaries, whose crimes are minor and not subject to criminal prosecution, and who have been dismissed by government offices, organizations, and enterprises, educational institutions or other units and have no way to make a living.”
    Fear and submission to CCP rule are also perpetuated by recurring “strike hard” campaigns. During these campaigns Chinese authorities implement various penalties, public trials, and previously, public executions, to intimidate its citizens and clamp down on political “crimes”. Trials and sentencing occur rapidly, and those accused of a crime are deemed guilty even before trial. It is under these circumstances that the CCP has continually silenced dissidents.
  5. What is the economic significance of the Laogai?
    Besides being important to China’s communist regime as a tool of repression, the Laogai is also an integral part of China’s economy. Chinese authorities use the millions locked in the Laogai as free labor. Totaling an estimated three to five million, they make up the world’s largest forced labor population. The CCP seeks to use the Laogai for profit.
    Forced labor is seen as another input for economic output. The deliberate application of forced labor by the Chinese government is codified in the Ministry of Justice Criminal Reform Handbook: “Laogai facilities…organize criminals in labor and production, thus creating wealth for society. Our Laogai units are both facilities of dictatorship and special enterprise.” The CCP hopes that by being forced to labor in the Laogai, prisoners will be molded into “new socialist persons.”
  6. Are Laogai goods exported?
    While much of what is produced in the Laogai is consumed domestically, Laogai-made goods also filter into foreign markets by way of third-party trading companies. Recently, rather than attempting to do business directly with foreign companies, Laogai prisons will find a government-owned trading company to act as a middleman and conceal the forced-labor origins of products from importers. Many Laogai prisons also have a second enterprise name; for example, Jinzhou Prison, where Nobel Laureate and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo is believed to be held, also operates under the name “Jinzhou Xinsheng Switch, Co.”, which it uses to market its products to foreign companies over the internet. LRF has evidence that shows Laogai goods repeatedly find their way onto American shelves, despite laws forbidding their importation. Notwithstanding the Chinese government’s claims to the contrary, the CCP encourages exporting Laogai goods.
  7. What is existing U.S. law regarding the importation of Laogai goods?
    Importing forced-labor goods to the U.S. is illegal according to section 1307 of the Tariff Act of 1930. In 1992, the need to confront China about this problem led to the signing of the “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China on Prohibiting Import and Export Trade in Prison Labor Products.” However, China still exports prison labor goods to the U.S. To promote compliance with MOU’s terms, in 1994, the U.S. and China negotiated another agreement: the “Statement of Cooperation on the 1992 MOU between the U.S. and the PRC on Prohibiting Import and Export Trade in Prison Labor Products” (SOC). The SOC defines a mechanism to ensure that China promptly cooperates with U.S. Customs on forced labor inquiries. However, China has done nothing to ensure compliance, and the U.S. never committed resources to enforce the agreement. According to the 1997 “State Department Country Reports on Human Rights,” U.S. Customs unsuccessfully pursued eight standing visitation requests, seven of which dated back to 1995. In all cases, visitation requests were refused or ignored, and allegations were denied without explanation. Cooperation was judged as “inadequate.” In State Department reports from 1999, authorities admit that the MOU has been “nearly impossible” to enforce because China has been “uncooperative.” Throughout the 1990s, only around 20 cases of forced-labor product importation were pursued under the U.S. customs ban. Since 2000, the U.S. government has not attempted to restrict the flow of Laogai goods into the country.
  8. How can I avoid buying products made in the laogai?
    Identifying goods that are made entirely or in part in the Laogai is increasingly difficult. Sub-contracting and complicated global supply chains make discerning the origins of a product daunting. For example, a U.S. clothing maker may contact a Chinese import-export company to find a Chinese plant to cheaply make its clothing. That company may then contract the account to a legitimate Chinese textile firm, which will further sub-contract a portion of the production process to a Laogai camp, where prisoners must fill quotas to earn their food rations, rather than money. Laogai prisoners, toiling in horrible conditions, may also have grown the cotton the clothes are made from. If a product is “made in China” then it is possible it could have been produced in a Laogai.
  9. Should consumers boycott goods made in China?
  10. Are organs harvested from executed prisoners in the Laogai?
  11. What is the "One Child Policy"?
  12. Why do so few know about the Laogai?
  13. What does international law say about the Laogai?
  14. Who is Harry Wu?
  15. What is the Laogai Research Foundation?