The age-old socialist authoritarian tradition of re-education through labor (劳动教养) is re-contextualized as modern day slavery, in this new investigative piece from Al-Jazeera.
The practice, along with capital punishment, are merely two of the most visible examples of how China’s justice system stands apart from other countries. Though there have been talks of labor camps getting shut down, no official move has yet been made, with recent news also suggesting that labor camps have now at least developed an ironic sense of humor.
In May, a labor camp was in the news for assigning prisoners to play long hours of World of Warcraft, in order to accrue credits (for weapons, spells, virtual dies with even more sides) that would then be resold online, a process known as “gold farming”. If you know of any situations more representative of China’s absurdity than prisoners sitting in front of computers playing Warcraft in order to produce virtual goods for online gaming addicts (or 网吧蛋, as we like to call them), please let us know.
We’ve noticed that re-education through labor seems more likely to happen willy-nilly during big national showcase events.
During the Beijing Olympics, two grandmothers in their 70s were sentenced to re-education through labor for merely applying for a legal permit to protest in a designated protest area.
And during Shanghai’s own World Expo last year, a woman was sentenced to a year of re-education, merely for adding the words “Charge, angry youth” to a re-tweet of her husband’s Twitter post, which encouraged Chinese nationalists to smash the Expo’s Japanese Pavilion.
For more videos in the Al-Jazeera series on modern slavery, click here.