Thursday, 05 June 2008 20:00 Keriann Hopkins Editorial Dept - Asia

  China's Pre-Olympics Crackdown on Dissidents Adds to Forced Labor Camps - With only 70 days until the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing, human rights analysts say Communist China is cracking down on dissidents, adding to the already huge populations in its forced labor and child labor camps.

 Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, said that as a result of the crackdowns, human rights abuses will not be evident during the 2008 Olympics.

"The time that we're seeing human rights abuses in China is right now ... leading up to the Olympics," Mosher told Cybercast News Service. "That's when the dissidents are being put away; that's when the labor union activists are being arrested; that's when the beggars are being swept off the streets of Beijing and sent packing."

Mosher said the Chinese government is so determined to put its best foot forward that even potential political dissidents are being placed "out of sight." "How they do that is they either put them under house arrest, they send them out into rural exile, or they put them into labor camps," he said.


According to Mosher, the Chinese government is using the pretext of the Olympics to carry out a huge urban renewal project in Beijing, destroying thousands of homes in the process. There are estimates, he said, that 2 million people have been rendered homeless by the demolition project to create the Olympic Village.

"Twenty thousand people have been arrested just for protesting the destruction of their homes," said Mosher, "so that 20,000 people has been added to the labor-camp population."

An estimated 10 million people are currently enslaved in Chinese labor camps, Mosher said.

In a report issued in March, the State Department estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 people, including children, are placed or sold into forced labor in China every year.

The report also revealed that in mid-August 2007, a Chinese government task force actually rescued 1,340 laborers being forced to work illegally. The government officials complicit in the cases received only administrative penalties, the State Department said.

The most egregious forced labor violations take place in work camps called "Laogai," which translates as "reform through labor" in Mandarin.

Mosher pointed out that China's Mao Zedong did something that the dictator Stalin was never able to accomplish in the former Soviet Union -- he actually made communist labor camps turn a profit. The workers are paid little because of their prisoner status, Mosher said, and many of their products are exported to the United States.

"American workers are competing with literally slave labor," Mosher added.

Harry Wu, founder of the Laogai Research Foundation and a former internee of the Chinese work camps, said forced labor is an integral part of Chinese government policy, and the number of products being produced by labor camps is "continually expanding."

But forced labor is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human rights violations in China, Wu said.

"We want to see the Chinese permanently improve the human rights -- change the policy about birth control, change the policy about freedom of religion, freedom of speech and release the people and stop the Laogai policy... but we don't see that the Chinese government is going to do so," Wu told Cybercast News Service.

Meanwhile, Mosher said that the Olympics could prove to be harmful to human rights in many ways. Soccer stadiums in China are not only used for soccer games, he said, but also for public executions. He claims that, on average, 10,000 to 15,000 people are publicly executed in China every year.

Mosher believes that after the Olympic athletes, journalists and "cheering crowds" have gone home, the new stadiums built for the Olympics will become "execution fields."

Last month, a bipartisan group of congressmen and senators called on the Bush administration to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics or, at minimum, keep U.S. government officials from attending what they dubbed the "Olympics of Oppression."

"Human rights conditions are worse today in China than they were 10 years ago," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) at the May 1 Capitol Hill news conference.

Former President George H. W. Bush is the honorary delegation head of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Mosher said that that complicates President Bush's decision regarding a boycott of the opening ceremonies, placing him in an awkward situation.

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