Jennifer Zeng (her Chinese name is Zheng Zeng) spent 12 months in one of China’s infamous re-education through labour camps. I came across this book after following the case of Chen Yonglin, who is currently seeking asylum in Australia. In his May 25 letter to DIMIA, he talks about how guilty he feels at secretly working against Falun Gong practitioners, describing it as a ‘sin’. In the letter he says:
‘In China, many Chinese local governments are used to put all Falun Gong practitioners into labour camps and jails and forced education courses, and have caused a good number of deaths for the practitioners are uncooperative. My spirit is severely distressed for my sin of working for the unjustified authority in somewhat evil way, and my hair turns white quickly in the last 4 years for frequent nightmares.’
Jennifer Zeng describes that very real nightmare: a totalitarian government bent on thought control. To Westerners living in open, free societies, what Zeng describes in her book is a total spin out. We simply take so many of our freedoms for granted. Who would think you’d have to fight to have free thoughts?
It is not hyperbole to liken the labour camps as something right out of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The whole idea is that through beatings, torture with electric prods, sleep deprivation, chronic overwork, Falun Gong practitioners will come to their senses and renounce Falun Gong. There are five stages to reform: guarantee, renunciation, exposing and repudiation, going public and finally, becoming an education aide. As you see, you can’t just sign a declaration and say you’re done with it. They make you a public example of a ‘reformed’ person. You simply can’t escape.
To further explain how Orwellian the whole process is, those going through the reform process also have to write ‘thought reports’, even after they have had visits from family or loved ones. It sounds nuts and unbelievable to us here in Australia, but once I got to the end of the book it also sounded so plausible, especially after all that Chen Yonglin has claimed.
For example, on page 293 Jennifer Zeng describes someone dobbing their father in as a Falun Gong practitioner. This is how deeply the Communist Party brainwashes the people. This process started in earnest in the late 90’s, with the setting up of the infamous 610 office. Television and media has also been used in a relentless campaign to portray Falun Gong practitioners as evil cultists. In 2001 the Communist government even set up five people to self-immolate themselves in Tian’anmen square (setting fire to themselves), then went on to say they were Falun Gong practitioners. (It’s suspected they may have been suffering terminal diseases, and were promised big payouts to their families is they complied.)
In 2001 Zeng flew to Australia and successfully sought asylum. Her book seems to have been published first here in Australia. Her daughter, Shitan, joined her in 2004. Her husband is still in China, and is still harassed by authorities.
If memory serves me right, there are about 70 million Falun Gong practitioners in China, meaning it’s extraordinarily resilient. One wonders how long the Communist party can continue to try and control people’s thoughts, especially in the age of the internet.
One thing seems sure, the Chinese regimes tentacles extend far and wide. In the appendix of the book it lists how on April 7, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered Melbourne City Council to publish and apology in three local Chinese papers to the Victorian Falun Dafa association for having barred a float from the 2003 Moomba parade. Were they leaning on John So, I wonder? (I think it was local Chinese business men who applied the pressure on him, I found out in an old Age report.) It’s all very creepy, and surprising how little coverage the whole Chen Yonglin defection bid is getting. Except of course for Lateline, which has been exemplary in its sticking with the story.
One last thing I found interesting. Mark Vaile, new leader of the Nationals, said that Trade and Human Rights were two different things when it came to China. On page 250 the author describes making toys around the clock (it was a rush order that came in) for Nestle – some sort of promotional thing. She also describes how much the labour camps help to boost the Chinese economy.
I wonder how many things we buy in our free market economy that has been made by such slave labour?
This book answered a lot of my questions about Falun Gong, the re-education labour camps, the whole spying apparatus and insane state control of so many aspects of Chinese life. If you’re wondering what Chen Yonglin could possibly be on about, pick up a copy of this book and find out.