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New Ghosts, Old Ghosts: Prisons and Labor Reform Camps in China
New Ghosts, Old Ghosts: Prisons and Labor Reform Camps in China
By James D. Seymour and Richard Anderson
M. E. Sharpe, 1998, 313 pp
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This authoritative volume represents a pioneering study of China's laogais, or labor camps. Based on research in classified documents and extensive interviews with former prisoners, judicial personnel, and other insiders, the study focuses on three northwestern provinces. Life in the camps is harsh. Many are in remote, widely scattered locations, accessible only by crude transportation. Physical abuse and exploitation abound. And at least in Xinjiang province, where the majority of the population is Muslim, there are many political prisoners. In terms of numbers, however, the rate of incarceration is close to the world average. There are a considerably smaller percentage of Chinese in laogais than there were Soviet citizens in the gulag. The authors debunk reports that the laogais engage in significant economic activity. Finally, although China's prisons are far less humane than Western prisons, they are similar to those in economically comparable countries.