A Tale of Woe: Arrested in China

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Chinese Prisons and Legal System: Infamous for human rights violations

Chinese Prisons and Legal System: Infamous for human rights violations

One of my deepest fears while on Chinese soil was being arrested and slogging through the morass they call the Chinese legal system. The blog Beijing Haze documents the efforts of an American wife and long term Beijing resident, on extricating her Chinese husband from the wrath of China’s prison system. Her husband was recently arrested in a massage parlour in a Beijing city-wide blitz against prostitution.

Here is her “About Me”:

I have spent over a decade as an American in China and there have been several times when I have composed blog entries in my head after a uniquely Beijing experience, but I never acted on it. Never did I imagine it would be my husband’s arrest and subsequent detention that would ignite the fire to put words on paper and share my experiences. My hope is that by doing so, I might help someone else who gets caught in the system (not as impossible as you may think) as well as helping myself to sort out my own thoughts on this ongoing ordeal. And I suppose it is also a way of placating my sense of guilt for participating in and therefore enabling the cycle of corruption and bribery, by documenting it and placing it on the public record of the Internet.

Her blog entries cover many of the shadier aspects of Chinese life such as bribery, forced confessions, moving prisoners from place to place, forced hard labour, lack of clear legal process, the conditions for early release, re-education through labour, to start. It is also interesting that she points out that certain districts in Beijing are safer than others.

Most disconcerting is the fact that she thought the U.S. Embassy could assist her. Her husband is a Chinese citizen and is thus under the clear jurisdiction of the PRC. Even if he was born in China, immigrated, became a US citizen, and gave up Chinese citizenship, there is a possibility that the Chinese legal system might consider him a Chinese citizen. One would think that after over a decade in China she would already know this.

Very troubling is China’s laogai system of prisons. Here’s a quote from LaoGai.org:

The Laogai, China’s brutal system of labor camps, remains one of the most glaring blemishes on China’s human rights record. Although the term Laogai (reform through labor) was replaced in official use with jianyu (prison) in 1994, so as to suggest to Western countries that the Chinese penal system was not so different than theirs, the true nature of the Laogai has not changed… Moreover, the Laojiao (reeducation through labor) component of the Laogai system, which reappeared in the early 1980’s and allows for the arrest and detention of petty criminals for up to three years without formal charge or trial, is not even considered by the Chinese government to qualify as a prison. Rather, it is regarded as a form of administrative detention and is often employed against political and religious dissidents.

She also touches on using prison labour for export products, though she says that the Chinese government deems this illegal, it is not illegal by any international law. Use of Chinese prison labour is not new. What is new are accounts that organ harvesting is rampant in China’s prisons.

As an avid scholar of things Chinese it is very difficult to get authentic information about the process of detention and punishment, so this first hand account is very enlightening. I wish her well and thank her for sharing her experiences.

Export of products from Chinese Prison labout banned to US

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Woe: Arrested in China

  1. Jean

    Amee Barnes,
    I, a Canadian, used to teach law in the PRC and got involved with local laws (what they call law, anyway).
    Finally won my case, but it took me 8 months of hell at the Beijing Detention center.
    I just finished writing a book on this and looking for a sympathetic publishing house.
    I believe our experiences may both be useful for the other in all confidentiality.
    Please email me .
    Jean jo60489 at yahoo.ca

  2. dontai Post author

    Hi Amee, I’ve been on your web site numerous times, but did not realize you were a fellow Canadian! I am not and have never been directly involved with law in China, but the process and horrror stories scare the bejebbers out of me. I could easily see myself getting trapped in some kind of legal ambush. Though it took 8 months of hell, I’m glad you won your case. Cheers!

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