Speech from the International Conference on "Genocide in the New Era" by Harry Wu

The International Conference on “Genocide in the New Era”, organised by “Friends of Falun Gong Europe” and “International Advocates for Justice”, took place in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm from January 26th to January 28th 2004. This is one of the conference speeches by Chinese dissident Harry W who is the author of two best-selling books and is one of the world’s foremost Chinese dissidents. His experience is grounded in 19 years as a political prisoner in China. In the 1990’s, Harry returned to China several times to document human rights abuses and in 1995 he was detained, causing international outcry.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of ‘genocide’ is “the deliberate killing of a very large number of people from a particular ethnic group or race, or nation.” The term was first coined in the 1940’s, when it was used to describe the horrors of Nazi rule in occupied Europe. Under the ideology of Hitler and the Nazis, the German government divided the people of Germany by race, politics and religion, and exterminated people through atrocities.

In Communist China, according to the Communist Constitution, the government divides the people by class, politics and religious belief. Its divisions are not based on race; they are based on individual economic characteristics. If a person owns land, he or she belongs to the landlord class, and if a person owns capital or property, he or she belongs to the capitalist class. Both of these classes are considered to be exploiting classes and members of both classes, including their relations, are subject to extermination because they are part of the counterrevolutionary classes. During the Cultural Revolution in China an enormous amount of people were massacred for the sake of the Red Revolution, just as Jewish people were massacred in the Crystal Night in Germany, 1938. Just as Jews and other genocide victims of the Holocaust in Germany constituted whole sections of the German society, Chinese who belonged to the wrong class were also genocide victims.

Since 1949 when the Communist Party came to power it destroyed all kinds of religions in China, particularly the Christian and Catholic faiths. The Roman Catholic faith is still illegal in China today. It is common knowledge that people in China are not allowed to practise the religion of their choice. Because of this lack of religious freedom, Falun Gong practitioners have become a serious target of the Communist persecution.

Laogai is a kind of prison system throughout China which imprisons countless numbers of people who belong to the “wrong” religions, hold “wrong” political ideas or have a “wrong” class background. The laogai is used by the Chinese government to control and get rid of these people. Today I am going to use some footage to try to show you what the Chinese labour camp system is. Despite the existence of the laogai, where many people have suffered, most people in the world are unwilling to speak out about this widespread phenomenon.

In Germany, the Nazi’s machine of operation was called the “Concentration Camp”, in the Soviet Union it was called the “Gulag”, and in China its name is the “Laogai”. In Chinese, laogai means ‘reform through labour’ or ‘reform through re-education’. However, we must recognise the laogai system in China for what it is – a brutal and inhumane system - the Chinese version of Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulag, which enslaves millions of people throughout China. Among the people who are in the laogai, there are Falun Gong practitioners. They have to make a confession; they have to plead guilty; they have to always say “I’m guilty” and accept the thought reform and re-education from the government. Otherwise they will get into big trouble. The laogai authorities call this “helping them”. They are not only physically tortured; they are mentally destroyed there, until they are no longer a human being and become a Communist robot. If your performance is not good enough, then the government say, “Sorry, I cannot let you go, because you did not accept help from us.”

Many prisoners were transferred to the rural area (shows picture of a Shanghai prison). Many prisoners were moved to the desert in Xinghai and Xingjiang province. Under Jiang Zemin’s control, the police system was renewed. Today, there is not only a Military Police system and a National Security Police system, but also the Internet Police. This is another new development under Jiang Zemin. The laogai system also expanded to the Tibet area, as the Tibetans who seek their freedom and their own religion become a “big problem”. There wasn’t such a big prison system in Tibet before. This is one of the brand new prison systems established by the Chinese Government in Tibet. While the Chinese Government destroyed the temples and the monasteries, they were building some new facilities for the prisoners in the laogai systems.

The Military Police has also expanded rapidly since 1983. So when you hear that the Chinese have reduced the number of members in the People’s Liberation Army, you have to remember that there is another increase - the Military Police has significantly grown in China. So if there is another Tiananmen Square Movement they don’t need the PLA at all. They can use the Military Police and the National Security Police.

There is one other important thing to remember: we never know how many re-education camps or reform-through-labour camps there are in China. It’s a top secret. Today many Falun Gong practitioners are helping to identify a lot of labour camps in China.

This picture (shows picture) was taken in 1991, when my wife and I visited China. You can see three signboards. The first signboard shows the Communist Party Committee in this working unit. The second signboard shows the Enterprise Coal Mine. The third signboard shows the 13th Labour Reform Detachment in Shanxi. Each prison camp has two different names, one in the enterprises production system and the other in the judiciary system as a labour camp.

I recently heard a story from Zhao Ming. He was in a prison camp making chopsticks. If the products qualify for export, they will definitely make them. They export all the products into the United States and European markets. For many years, the Chinese prison system has been making their own money and they don’t have any budget from the central government. I am pretty sure that a certain percentage of sport shoes are made by prisoners under forced labour in China. Of course, the foreign companies deny this. They might not know about it, as they only sign a contract with the Chinese authorities and the authorities have a sub-contract with all these manufacturers, including the prison manufacturers. There are also the tea farms. China is the number one tea exporter. One third of this tea is from the prison camps.

Most of this prison labour is manual slave labour. Even at the famous Three Gorges Dam project, the prisoners were sent to make a contribution to the dam on the river. One has no right to reject labour-reform. The prison system is very clear: you can only be reformed through labour. If you refuse the labour, the prison warden says, “If you do not go through labour you cannot become a newborn person.”

When I visited Dachau labour camp, I was shocked to read a slogan on top of the front gate: “Labour Makes Freedom”. Nazi Germany and Communist China seem very different, but they are actually based on the same inhuman ideology. In the prison camp, labour is related to your performance: You may be released sooner or you may have your sentence extended.

The Laogai system still exists and plays a very important role in controlling people. A new group of people has recently been put in the labour camps: Falun Gong practitioners. The system fundamentally serves as a suppression machine to maintain the Communist Party’s power.

The stadiums in China have dual purposes; they are not only used for athletics, football or whatever kind of sporting event, but they are also used for execution. They gather people there, including high-school students, to see the executions because this is a part of the dictatorship education. The message is clear: “If you violate the law and become a criminal you can be punished in this way.” There is a saying in China: “Killing the chicken to scare the monkey”.

In the last ten years, Amnesty International has been working hard to collect information on these executions. The Chinese Government has never revealed how many executions happened in the last 53 years. It is top secret. So AI made a very rough estimate that during the 1990’s on average, 2000 executions were carried out each year. That means 50 people were killed every week. This is a bare minimum, the bottom line.

80% of the world’s persecutions happen in China. China has a national policy. This is a national policy, not a local one. The policy says the government has the right to remove organs from executed prisoner for transplantation; the hospitals are owned by the government, and the doctors are government employees. This government makes money from the executed prisoners’ organs.

When we interviewed these doctors in China, they told us, “Well, we don’t know these executed prisoners and anyway, if they are shot dead and cremated it’s a waste. As a doctor, we care for the patients. We use the waste to save other people’s lives.” One of the doctors is in Hamburg right now; he confessed that he removed organs from a death row prisoner before the execution. This reminded me of the Auschwitz Camp. There was a group of Nazi doctors using human beings as guinea pigs. And I was also reminded of the Nuremberg Trial. When the Nazi doctors defend themselves by saying, “Oh, when these people come to my lab, they have consented,” the judge said, “Nonsense!” Consent under power and threat means nothing. But today this is still going on in China.

Thank you.

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