Friday, April 16

Labor Camp

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Oregon native Julie Keith has found herself in the middle of one of China’s biggest controversies, the persecution of the Falun Gong meditation practice.

It all started more than a year ago when she purchased a 17-piece graveyard kit at a local Kmart. It was sitting in storage for a year until this past October. She was just about to donate it because it was collecting dust, but decided to use it for her daughter’s fifth birthday party, which falls right before Halloween.

[Julie Keith, Portland, Oregon]:
“And as I opened some of the Styrofoam headstones, a note popped out. I opened the note and it was from this person pleading for help in the labor camp in China and wasn’t sure what to do with it.”

The letter, written at the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, northeast China, paints a grizzly picture.

“If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

The letter claims detainees work 15-hour days and are paid less than $2 USD a month for forced labor. It says thousands are held there, and that many are persecuted Falun Gong practitioners.

And it doesn’t end there. It goes on to say , “People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others.”

[Julie Keith, Damascus, Oregon]:
” The first thing I did was Google the labor camp and it horrified me… some of the stories coming from there. But it really made me happy that I don’t live in a country where that kind of thing happens.”

China’s labor re-education system is notorious for rights abuses. The system is used heavily in the Communist regime’s persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. In 2008, the US State Department estimated up to half of the 200,000 registered detainees in Chinese labor camps were Falun Gong adherents.

[Julie Keith, Damascus, Oregon]:
“I was aware there were prison camps and forced labor, but just not anything so horrific.”

Julie says she’s she spoken to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, who are now looking into the claims.

Sears Holdings Corporations, which runs Kmart, has also said it is holding its own investigations.