Original Documents at the Laogai Museum Confirming Abuses

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Original Documents on Display at the Laogai Museum Confirming Human Rights Abuses Committed by the Chinese Communist Party

by  Laogai Research Foundation

On February 7, 2013, the newly constructed Archives Room at the renowned Laogai Museum was officially opened to visitors. The room serves as another unique way in which the public can gain in-depth knowledge of the various kinds of crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the last six decades.

The Laogai Museum is situated near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC at the intersection of 20th  Street and S Street. One can access the Archive Room by entering the museum through the gate on the 20th Street, turning right in front of the reception desk of the museum, and then making a left in the hallway. The room was custom built to feature the important documents on display. Stepping into the room, one first encounters an introductory statement reading, “These materials and physical objects are very difficult to obtain, some of which were collected by Mr. Harry Wu at the risk of his very life, some of which were donated by laogai survivors and the relatives and friends of Laogai inmates, and still some of which were transported or purchased from Mainland China through various means.” Mr. Wu worked relentlessly for years to obtain the documents on display, a testament to the evil deeds perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party. Due to the secrecy of the Chinese Communist regime and its practice of covering up historical atrocities, it is very hard for ordinary people to acquire such information. It is no exaggeration to say that such a collection would not exist without Mr. Wu’s tenacity and willingness to take significant risks. As such, the display room is a unique exhibit that serves as an indispensible source of information on historical and contemporary human rights abuses in China.  

In order to provide visitors with a better understanding of items featured in the exhibit, the door to the room provides detailed explanations of frequently used laogai terms. Such terms include “reform goal, “disciplinary team for reform through labor,” “laogai enterprise,” etc. To help the visitors read the materials, relevant excerpts from documents and archived items have been enlarged and encased in a glass frame. These archived materials are arranged in chronological order. Archives featured in the exhibit range from the Rules for Punishing Anti-Revolutionaries, published in 1951 during the early years of communist rule, to the Notice concerning Pre-installation of Green Network-Filtering Software on Computers, which was published just a few years ago for the purpose of monitoring Internet information. As the Communist China is a country ruled by men, these directives and speeches made by powerful leaders represent important policy statements. As such, the Archive Room contains instructions regarding the maintenance of laogai prisons issued by the first generation of communist leaders shortly after taking power. For example, on May 15, 1951, Mao Zedong asserted, “The great many criminals are a tremendous labor force… and must be immediately organized into the laogai work system.” In a “Speech to All the Comrades Attending the Fifteenth National Meeting on Public Security” on February 8, 1971, Zhou Enlai said, “Those who are convicted need to be reformed through labor, those whose crimes have not yet determined also need to be reformed through labor, and the prison inmates are to be reformed through labor as well.” The remarks of communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai served as early indicators of the intention of Chinese officials to establish a vast network of laogai prison camps, making these men the chief culprits behind this repressive system.

It is well known that the Chinese Communist Party did not invent the practice of using labor camps to punish political dissidents. As the leader of the communist bloc, the former Soviet Union played an extremely important role in the introduction, perfection, and strengthening of the laogai regime in China. In light of this reality, the display room prominently features the role of the former Soviet Union. One display panel cites the “suggestions” offered by Mr. Stoyanov, the Soviet expert on Laogai, in connection with Chinese laogai work. He articulated the following purposes behind the laogai system: “1) To ensure state security under certain conditions and prevent the possibility of criminals damaging and sabotaging the People’s Republic of China; 2) To organize regular mandatory labor and mold the laogai inmates into model workers.” As the Soviet gulag served as the prototype for the Chinese laogai, Soviet experts like Mr. Stoyanov naturally became guiding forces behind the implementation of the laogai system. Although the Sino-Soviet relationship subsequently deteriorated, once it took root within the Chinese system, the laogai became an increasingly important and powerful for the Chinese Communist Party to maintain its “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The documents and regulations related to the laogai are the focus of the Archive Room. In addition to the Rules for Punishing Anti-Revolutionaries, which was promulgated in 1951, five continuous display panels highlight governmental decrees regarding the laogai: the Notice concerning the Approval and Issuance of the Central Committee; The Resolution on Organizing the Nation’s Criminals into Reform through Labor; (adopted by the Third National Meeting on Public Security, issued on May 22, 1951); The Provisional Methods for the Release upon Term Expiration and Job Placement of Laogai Criminals (approved on August 26, 1954); The Rules of the People’s Republic of China for Reform through Labor (published on September 7, 1954); The Instructions of the Central Committee to each Province and Municipality Regarding the Immediate Preparations for Establishing the Institutions for Reeducation through Labor (published in January 1956); and The Decision of the State Council Regarding Reeducation Through Labor, promulgated in 1957.

The display room contains relevant laogai laws, governmental documents, and regulations arranged in chronological order, as well as materials related to specific topics and important individual cases. Featured documents include the 1957 Decision of the State Council regarding Reeducation through Labor is the Notice of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Standards for Categorizing the Rightists, which was published on October 15, 1957, and The Regulations on the Principles for Dealing with the Rightists among the Salaried Governmental Personnel and University Students. The inclusion of these directives highlights the close relationship between the Anti-rightist Movement and the laogai system. In July 1957 in Qingdao, Mao Zedong proposed two principles for dealing with rightists, one of which was “to come up with rules for reeducation through labor and then send some rightists and a few high-profile celebrities to laojiao labor camps.” Authorities subsequently published The Decision of the State Council regarding Reeducation through Labor, which primarily targeted rightists. The display also features The Certain Regulations of the Central Committee and the State Council on Strengthening the Work of Public Security during the Proletariat Cultural Revolution (commonly known as “Six Rules for Public Security”), published on January 13, 1967. This directive served as the legal basis legal basis for the horrors perpetrated during the Cultural Revolution.

After Mao Zedong’s death, the Chinese Communist Party continued to use the laogai as a means to exert control over society. The Eleventh Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to regularly issue secret bulletins concerning the regulation of the national laogai system. One of those bulletins asserted, “We must regard reeducation through labor as a long-term undertaking.” As a result of economic reforms implemented in the 1980’s that opened China to international investors, the brutal laogai system increasingly gained international exposure and condemnation. In an attempt to deflect such criticism, the Party decided to rename the laogai system. On August 19, 1994, the Department of Justice of the Communist Party issued the Notice concerning the Uniform Rules for Prison Administration Authorities and Prison Names. Although the Communist Party renamed the laogai “prison,” the nature of the laogai system has remained the same. The two documents outlining this nominal change highlight the Party’s deceitful attempt to mask continued reliance on laogai camps.

Just as the Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Mao Zedong took power through killings, it maintained its grip on power through killings. Four display panels in the room provide four different perspectives on this method of governing through violence. First, Mao Zedong attempted to eradicate members of an entire economic class in the name of revolution. In a reply to the Telegraph regarding Sentencing Anti-revolutionary Elements of the South Central Bureau of the Communist Party on January 22, 1951, he stated, “Guangdong must execute thousands of important reactionary elements according to plans in order to suppress the morale of the enemy.” This provided clear instructions for subsequent killings. In the Resolution of the Third National Meeting on Public Security adopted on May 15, 1951, the Communist Party set clear quotas and plans for eliminating class enemies. The regime took the opportunity provided by the chaos unleashed during the Cultural Revolution to impose martial law nationwide. Two documents displayed in the room exemplify the situation and circumstances of national martial law in minute detail. One is Document No. 21, jointly issued on October 16, 1970 by the People’s Bodyguard Unit of the Revolutionary Commission of the Xiangyang District at Huainan City, Anhui Province and the People’s Liberation Army’s Court Small Group for Martial Law at the Public Security Sub-branch of Xiangyang District, Huainan City. This document made clear the need to strengthen the monitoring and reform of the five categories of “elements.” The other is a public announcement made on January 21, 1971 by the People’s Liberation Army’s Small Group for Martial Law at Public Security Authority of Nanling County, Anhui Province, which made reference to the “criminals” who had been sentenced to death.

The exhibition encompasses many themes. One such theme is the labor camp system. Other important topics on display include religious freedom, the death penalty and organ transplantation, family planning and abortion, and Internet freedom. In terms of religious freedom, there is a display panel in the room devoted exclusively to the case of Bishop Gong Pinmei’s anti-revolutionary group in the 1950s. Bishop Gong’s parishes were located in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Nanjing, and his religious faith and activities were viewed as evidence of his anti-revolutionary conduct. Even after adopting the economic reform policies, the Chinese Communist Party remained antagonistic toward religion. On March 4, 1980, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council approved and issued The Reports on the Resistance to the Penetration into our Country by Foreign Churches (Zhongfa Document (1980) No. 22), which severely restricted religious activities.

In terms of the death sentence and organ transplantation, three display panels highlight, respectively, three foundational regulations: The Notice concerning the Strictly Preventing Reactionary Newspapers and Magazines from Slandering by Taking Advantage of the Execution of Criminals, jointly issued in 1984 by several relevant organs of the Party Central Committee; The Provisional Regulations on the Use of Corpses and Organs of Executed Criminals, promulgated on October 9, 1984 by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Civil Affairs; and The Rules for the Transplant of Human Organs, signed and published by the State Council’s Premier Wen Jiabao on March 31, 2007.

On the theme of family planning and abortion, the following exhibitions are on display: The Law of the People’s Republic of China for the Population and Family Planning, published on December 29, 2001 via Order No. 63 of the President of the People’s Republic of China; poignant pictures depicting forced artificial miscarriage, abortion, and sterilization; and The Notice for the Conduct of Collective Service for Family Planning in the Autumn Season, issued by a local government.

The final featured theme relates to China’s vast system of Internet suppression and monitoring, with one panel devoted to the Administrative Measures for Safety Protection of the International Networking of the Computer Information System, which was published by the Ministry of Public Security on December 30, 1997.

In addition to the content mentioned above, the room also features some historically and politically important events, cases, and policies. The first featured event relates to the mass starvation and attendant cannibalism that took place during the Great Famine of 1959-1961.  Mr. Yin Shusheng, then executive deputy director of the department for public security in Anhui province, provided original records of the special cases involving cannibalism during the Great Leap Forward movement in Anhui province in his article published in the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu. Next is the Notice of the Public Trial of the Military Control Commission in Beijing, which dealt with the well-known cases of Yu Luoke and Wang Peiying. The following display features the Notice concerning Strengthening the Work of Propaganda and Education, issued in 1989 by the Party Central Committee as a direct response to the 1989 pro-democracy movement. After this event, the work of propaganda and education became an increasingly important front for the Chinese Communist Party to solidify its dictatorship. The final piece is the Meeting Minutes of the Politburo Standing Committee on Maintaining Stability in Xinjiang, dated March 19, 1996, which details the approaches, methods, and tools employed by the Chinese Communist Party to deal with conflicts involving minorities. This document serves as an important reference for gaining a better understanding of contemporary minority rights issues in China.

Items featured in the Archive Room convey some of the horrors of the countless atrocities perpetrated by the Communist Party during more than six decades of rule, disasters unprecedented in the whole of Chinese history. As the just retired chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo pointed out, the purpose of the legislative work of the People’s Congress is to solidify and improve the Party’s position of leadership. The archive room of the Laogai Museum provides powerful support for this notion. In advancing this goal, the Party has unleashed untold suffering. The Archive Room features documents that provide visitors with a direct look at the legal foundation for the horrific policies and campaigns implemented in order to solidify Party rule.