In response to enormous pressure from inside and outside China, the Communist Party last year made it official: it was going to abolish the system of re-education through labor camps that it has used to punish dissidents since the 1950s.
But if it wanted that to be the end of the story, victims have something else in mind. They’re using the decision, and the labor camp closures, to argue for compensation for the abuses they suffered in the past.
Most prominently, in the past week former detainees from the Masanjia Women’s Forced Labor Camp, one of the most brutal in China, have launched a petition campaign, online and on foot, calling for their abuses to be redressed.
The name Masanjia gained international notoriety in 2012 when a woman from Oregon found a note from an enslaved labor camp worker slipped into her box of graveyard-style Halloween toys. Astonished and shaken, she took the letter to the press.
“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product,” it said in imperfect English, “please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”