“[L]et us be in no doubt: the world is still a dangerous place…” ~ Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England from 1970 to 1974 and former Honorary Fellow at the Hoover Institution gave a speech at the Hoover Institution on October 31st, 2000. The title of her speech was “A Time for Leadership”. Within the speech, Thatcher made startlingly accurate predictions about the rise of China in the 21st century. The following quote is an excerpt from Thatcher’s speech: “(China) cannot afford to embrace democracy, and at the moment it does not need to. It is, after all, able to repress dissent without much difficulty. It has even perfected a system, combining enterprise, corruption and slave labour, that allows it to benefit from growing prosperity. And I would like here to pay tribute to Harry Wu who courageously exposed that wicked system.” Today, Harry Wu and the Laogai Research Foundation continue to work to expose human rights abuses that resulted from China’s vast and brutal political system. LRF founded the Laogai Museum in 2008 in order to raise awareness, but even today, few people in the West understand the true nature of the Chinese Communist regime As Thatcher noted, in China, enterprise and corruption often go hand in hand. The death penalty system in China and the subsequent removal of organs from prisoners serve as an example of the government’s corrupted enterprise efforts. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has gradually changed the mode of execution to lethal injection. In the past, China has had prisoners executed by firing squad. However, many human rights organizations believe that the main reason that lethal injection is carried out inside execution vans (an execution method unique to China) is so that prisoners’ organs can be quickly removed, and sold for profit. Organ harvesting from prisoners has been a profitable enterprise for the corrupt PRC government since the 1980s. The PRC is second only to the U.S. in the number of organ transplants it carries out each year, even without any established organ donation program. It is one of the most abundant sources from which foreigners purchase organs. In 2012, The Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Public Heath of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) admitted that there was a lack of voluntary donations of organs, and that most of the organs that were harvested were from dead prisoners. Another important mechanism of the Chinese government’s control that Thatcher mentioned was slave labor. This issue of slave labor is the focus of the Laogai Research Foundation and the Laogai Museum. They work to document and expose the “Laogai”, China’s vast and brutal system of forced-labor prison camps. The Chinese government claims that the Laogai system was created to “remove antisocial elements from society and [reeducate] them” (Nathan, 2009)*. These “antisocial elements” are people who have been jailed because they were deemed as political enemies of the Chinese government. Both political prisoners and common criminals are forced into slave labor, doing heavy labor under hazardous conditions. They live in cramped quarters, with meager food and little medical care, and often face inhumane treatment consisting of mental and physical abuse, along with torture. The Laogai system has also become a government enterprise. These prisoners are being exploited by the government for their labor. Prisons are under the administration of the government, thus the government is in effect, in control of the goods that the prisoners produce. These goods are then shipped to foreign countries, and local government and prison officers are the ones who benefit from the profit. Under these continuing human rights abuses, China will have no chance of moving closer towards democracy. This is why we hope more individuals and organizations will acknowledge and condemn these actions of the Chinese government, as Margaret Thatcher did, in the hopes that another twelve years from now, China will have a more peaceful and democratic future.
*The Laogai Research Foundation has published a book called “Laogai: The Machinery of Repression in China” which details the abuses in the Chinese prison system. For more information on the book, please visit the Laogai Research Foundation bookstore website.