There are nearly 300 women detained in the Hebei Province Woman's Forced Labour Camp. More than 100, almost half, are Falun Gong practitioners. The three “brigades” in the labour camp are known as the second, the third, and the fourth. The slave labour is labelled "practice labour.” In fact, the forced labour camp abuses its detainees to do cheap labour to make huge profits. The productivity of each brigade is directly linked to the officers' bonuses.
The Production Division of the camp is in charge of business relationships with the manufacturers. The manufacturers provide the materials and pay the labour camp for processing. The government provides a financial allocation for each detainee, and the detainees provide the free labour. The labour camp uses this as competitive advantage to get a lot of orders. The forced labour camp not only brutally brainwashes practitioners, it is also forces them to work so that the camp can make huge profits.
1. Extended Hours of Labour
The forced labour system itself is illegal, and many legal professionals think it should be abolished. But even according to the provisions the forced labour camp system itself, detainees are supposed to get eight hours of sleep a night and not work more than six hours a day. At the end of the 2008 Lunar New Year Hebei Province Woman's Forced Labour Camp detainees had to work overtime for several days. One time they had to work 17 hours a day. Recently they have to work up to nine hours a day: get up at 5:30 in the morning, breakfast at 7:00, start to work in the workshop at 7:30, lunch at noon; nap in dorm at 12:30, work again at 1:30 p.m., dinner at 6:00. After that they are forced to watch a half hour of news, then have a one-hour “lesson.” They go to bed at 10:00 p.m.
There is a quota everyone must fulfill, regardless if you are a minor, in your 60s or 70s, or are seriously ill. If you can not finish the quota, you have to bring it back to the dorm to finish it at night. Sometimes they have to work until midnight. When manufacturers want to get the products in a rush or the productivity is low, detainees have to skip their lunch break and their break after dinner to work. They have to do heavy farm work in the forced labour camp's vegetable garden after their regular daily work in certain seasons. Holidays and breaks are not guaranteed. According to the rules detainees can get one day off per week. The second brigade gets Tuesday off, the third brigade Wednesday off, and the fourth grigade Thursday off. But, in fact, the detainees can only get half a day off and sometimes less than that. In 2012 the detainees had to start to work on the fourth day of Chinese New Year. If a brigade has low productivity, the Production Division will pressure them to work overtime.
2. Major Products Produced by Slave Labour
Hebei Province Women's Forced Labour Camp detainees make a variety of products. Between 2008 and 2009, they wrapped a huge number of disposable chopsticks in paper. They had also put handles on boxes for milk products for the Yili and Mengniu brands. The boxes were transported in containers by large trucks. In the same period, the detainees made boxes for moon cakes, packaged toothpicks, chopsticks, etc.
In recent years, the second and third brigades have mainly worked on the microfiber cleaning towels for Hebei Yikang Knitting and Cotton Co. Ltd. The towels come in many colours and sizes. The camp mainly works on pink, blue, and yellows towels that are 38cm × 40cm. The manufacturer calls these “triple colour cleaning towels.” Children's diapers, eyeglass cleaning cloth, bamboo fiber kitchen cloth, french terry cloth, glass cleaning cloth, tea towels, shower caps, microfiber PU cloth, and so on are also worked on in this camp. Hebei Yikang Knitting and Cotton Co., Ltd., products are not only sold in China, but also exported to Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, North America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
The fourth brigade mainly works on pharmaceutical aluminium-plastic combination caps for Hebei Jinhuan Packaging CO., Ltd. The caps come in gold, silver and blue. In addition, the second brigade folds paper bags for cotton seeds. In 2012, due to lack of supplies from the manufacturers, the second brigade did not have anything to work on, so they were delegated to pick vegetables for a supermarket and fold shower curtains for the Foreign Trade Division of Hebei Electric Power Transmission and Tuoms Labour & Service Company, which were said to be exported to many counties. The third brigade also sewed ornaments on the suspenders for woman's clothes for Hebei Yikang Knitting And Cotton Co., Ltd.
3. Details of the Production Process
The process of making triple color cleaning towels is divided into sewing edges, cutting edges, and packaging. Sewing the edges finishes the four edges of a piece of cloth with an electric sewing machine. The cloth is cut to size and shipped over by the manufacturer. The sewing requires a certain skill, and the manufacturer has strict requirements for the thread and location of the labels. so this should be done by someone under 45. The electric sewing machines are noisy. You have to shout in order to be heard. Edges for extra cloth are cut using a heated wire. The wire is fixed on a bench connected to a transformer. The edge cannot be burned or left loose. Usually this work is done by the young or middle aged. They sit on a small bench. Their hands are often burned and develop blisters if they are not careful. The fabrics and thread are synthetic fibres that produce a toxic gas harmful to the respiratory system and eyes when it burns. In the summer the red-hot wires make the room even hotter; in winter windows have to be open for ventilation, so it is very cold. The finished towels must be packaged, and the defective ones weeded out according to very strict requirements. The packaged products are rejected and redone if defective products are packaged. The packaging is done by the elderly. Clean towels shed a lot of synthetic fibres, which float in the air everywhere and do great harm to the respiratory system. The only protection provided in the workshop is one-time-use hats and masks. After a day's work, a layer of fibres covers everyone's body and face. These three jobs require one to sit in one position all day, resulting pain in the cervical area, lumbar area, shoulders, and back. The detainees are forced to sit on stools even back in the dorm. Only when the lights are off can they lie in bed and straighten out.
Other finished goods like nappies and glass cloth are shipped in and simply packaged.
When the manufacturer delivers finished goods, detainees have to unload the goods and the load the finished products. Unloading and loading is hard labor. Some packages are so heavy that three or four women at a time are needed to carry them. Sometimes the brigade leader only allows three people to lift bags requiring the strength of four in order to increase productivity. The brigade leaders will stand in the corridor to supervise the unloading and loading. They do not allow any breaks. When new products arrive, the brigade leader will gauge productivity based on two hours of output. They use the highest output as the standard requirement for everyone, instead of using average output. The standard output for sewing edges is 840 finished pieces per day, 500 pieces for newcomers. The standard output for cutting edges is 1680 pieces, the packaging is 600 pieces. The number is reduced for the elderly or the illness. The camp provides 10 yuan1 per person per a month to buy personal care items and offers a "labour reward,” which is linked to productivity. The highest reward for sewing edges is only four or fifty yuan, sometimes around 20 yuan per month. The reward for cutting edges is about the same. The reward for packaging is slightly lower. According to the managers from the manufacturer, the monthly wage of workers in their factory is one or two thousand yuan. The triple colour cleaning cloth sells for 5 yuan each, while an imperfect one can be sold for 2.5 yuan.
To process pharmaceutical caps for Hebei Jinhuan Packaging Co., first the failed aluminum caps must be screened, then a rubber stopper has to be inserted into the qualified aluminium bottle caps, and, finally, they must pass through quality control, where defective products are picked out from caps on a plastic disc. These steps should be done by specialized machinery in a strictly disinfected workshop. But all these steps are done here by hand. The standard output required for each person in the four brigades is 10,000 gold aluminium caps per day. This means that each person has to repeat the same action ten thousand times per day. Many people's hands peel, and their palms blister. The detainees that work here have all kinds of illnesses, and some even have infectious diseases. The manufacturer only issues a one-time-use cap to each person. The caps are stored in a large plastic bag or in a bucket. People plug in the caps sitting around a large table. The table is only wiped with wet rags before starting the work. In order to speed things up, some people use their fingers and nails to buckle the rubber stopper into qualified aluminium bottle caps instead of using molds. How could the products processed this way meet health standards for oral liquid packaging?
The second brigade has processed shower curtains before. The manufacture will bring the shower curtains to the third floor. The curtains are folded and put into a bag, then put into boxes. The 20-50 kg boxes are moved downstairs for loading.
4. Other Details
This forced labour camp evaluates every detainee based on her productivity. Those with high productivity are given high priority for things like reduced the labour camp terms. Those who refuse to participate in the forced labour are targets for persecution. Detainees have no freedom. They can only buy goods twice per month. Those who refused to do slave labour are put at the end of the shopping line. Sometimes they are only allowed to buy basic necessities (toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, etc.), and are not allowed to buy food. They are put the end of line for bathing, too. Their detention terms can also be increased. They are even tortured. Practitioner Ms. Zhao Ye from Tangshan City was beaten by prison guard Lu Yaqin with electric batons because she refused to do slave labour. As result the nerve in her right arm is damaged, and she cannot lift it. Lu Yaqin also threatened her to increase her term by two months.
The workshops are covered by monitoring equipment. Guards use detainees who have been convicted of pyramid sales schemes and fighting as collaborators to monitor others, especially Falun Gong practitioners. The water room and toilet doors are locked. Only brigade leaders have the key. Any movement, including fetching water or going to toilet, must be approved of the collaborators. Otherwise they have to wait. The water room and restroom in the workshop are only open at certain times. You have to ask the collaborators to report to the brigade leader if those rooms are not open. Many people do not want to see the brigade leader, and they have to wait. They are already tired from doing intensive labour, but they cannot even get water to drink or use the toilet. The harsh rules violate human rights and are an insult to human dignity. Prisoners are not allowed to walk side by side to the toilet or water room. Inmates, especially Falun Gong practitioners, are not allowed to talk to each other.
The forced labour camp also limits how much you can eat with the excuse that it is eliminating waste. Not enough food is provided at the dinner tables. It has been reported to the brigade leader, but nothing is changed. The food in the labor camp contains hardly any oil. Detainees have to go to the supermarket inside the forced labour camp to buy food. Some inmates suffering from hepatitis and other infectious diseases should not have been accepted according to the rules but were. Although they have separate dishes, they eat and sleep together with everyone else. The Government provides funds for the labour camps based on the number of detainees. In order to make money, the labour camp takes any live ones, no matter if she is illness or crippled, has heart disease, hypertension, or mental illness. They even accepted a 70-year-old woman in a wheelchair.
The Discipline and Inspection Division of the forced labour camp is in charge of supervising any illegal activities on the part of the guards. Each detainee who is about to leave the forced labour camp is asked to talk with the Discipline and Inspection Division. However, this is purely procedure and does not solve any problems. When detainees report to the Discipline and Inspection Division about long hours, high output requirements, not enough food, police beatings, and abuse of Falun Gong practitioners, the officials will state that the labour camp has its own rules. They also pick on practitioners.
5. Information on Some of the Manufacturers
A. Hebei Yikang Knitting and Cotton Co. Ltd.
Hebei Yikang Knitting and Cotton Co. Ltd. is one of the large-scale domestic manufactures in the textile industry. It has a wide range of products with three decades of export history. There are two subsidiaries—Hebei Yisheng Environment Protection Technique Company Ltd. and Shijiazhuang Yifa Textile Co., Ltd—with the registered trademark "YK" brand
Major markets: the Chinese mainland; Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions; Japan; North America; Eastern Europe; Middle East;
The main products are: cotton; bamboo; soy; corn; milk; polyester; nylon raw materials; and fabrics and finished products, including grey fabrics, dyed fabrics, different kinds of diapers, bedding, toiletries, children's clothing, cleaning supplies, sanitary materials, and environmentally friendly materials. The products are exported to dozens of countries and regions such as Japan, Malaysia, Australia, the United States, and Germany.
B. Hebei Jinhuan Packaging Co., Ltd.
Hebei Jinhuan Packaging Co., Ltd., founded in 1992, is located on Fangxing Road in the Fangchan Development Zone. It produces 3.5 billion bottle caps for a variety of antibiotic glass bottles, glass infusion bottles, and oral liquid bottles. It is the largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical caps in China. Products are exported to Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and the Middle East. Its products cover 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions inside China
"Yuan" is the Chinese currency; 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly income of an urban worker in China.
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