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Date: Fri, 10 Oct 97 10:23:07 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: China: Rallies Against State Privatization
/** labr.global: 348.0 **/
** Topic: Wuhan Rallies Against Privatization **
** Written 5:27 PM Oct 9, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **

Major Riot in Sichuan's Reform-Through-Labor Camp

By Guan Jie, Hong Kong Cheng Ming, 1 August 1997, pp. 21–22 (translated from Chinese)

Dissatisfied with vicious suppression, the prisoners placed under detention at the Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp in Sichuan Province angrily rose up in riot on 3 July and ended up in a sanguinary clash with the public security and armed police forces. The riot lasted 22 hours. Nearly 500 persons were injured or dead. Among the casualties, more than 180 public security personnel and armed policemen suffered injuries and 17 of them died.

Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp The Yaan Prefecture is located about 10 kilometers from Erlang Mountain in Sichuan Province. There is a reform-through-labor mining camp there. Over 5,000 criminals sentenced to more than 10 years of fixed-term imprisonment from Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan, and Hubei were locked up there. Most of these criminals are young people 20-30 years of age.

The Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Camp is one of the 12 reform-through-labor mining camps in Sichuan. It ranks second, only next to the Pingwu Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp in terms of scale. This camp mainly processes and produces granite. A part of the granite produced is used for construction, while some of the granite products are used for military installations and exports.

This reform-through-labor camp is one in which prisoners have to perform extremely hard labor. This reform-through-labor camp is heavily guarded. In ordinary days, it is guarded by two armed police detachments and 420 prison guards.

Riot in 1997 Spring Festival

A riot broke out in this reform-through-labor camp during the Spring Festival this year. On the eve of the Spring Festival, the authorities of the Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp suddenly announced that in order to fulfill the production task, the three-day Spring Festival holiday was canceled. So was the regular practice of giving three liang of white wine and one pack of cigarettes to each person on the eve and the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

All this had angered the prisoners in the camp. Nearly 1,000 prisoners took sick leave and refused to eat meals and work in protest of this announcement. Later, the camp authorities resorted to suppression, and more than 30 prisoners were injured or dead.

After the incident, the camp authorities transferred a group of prisoners to the Mianning Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp. They also called in additional personnel from the Provincial Public Security Department and the Provincial Armed Police General Headquarters to station themselves in the camp to carry out strict surveillance over the prisoners. Incident of Mass Hunger Strike in May In early May, prisoners in the Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp once again requested permission to reduce labor intensity, work eight hours a day, have one day off each week, and refrain from working overtime. They also requested the authorities to provide better food and medical services. However, these reasonable requests were condemned by the camp authorities as an intention of the prisoners to defy the people's dictatorship and oppose the reform program.

The camp authorities announced their intention to ferret out the behind-the-scene plotters.

In mid-May, the prisoners finally staged a hunger strike en masse in protest of the suppressive measures taken by the authorities. Prisoners chanted aloud the slogan We want to live, need humane treatment, and wish to see the leadership.

Camp Authorities Resort to Deceit

In mid-June, the officials of the Sichuan provincial government and the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress inspected the Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp. The authorities of the camp promptly made deceitful arrangements. They issued new summer prison clothes to the prisoners, improved the quality of meals, and warned prisoners not to carry out unruly activities. They deliberately organized some prisoners to lie to the inspecting officials, and launched a propaganda campaign on how the prisoners were well treated and educated by the camp authorities.

However, when the officials who came to inspect the mining camp were investigating the situation in the camp, some prisoners told the officials that the public security and police forces and the camp officials stole the pocket money sent or brought to them by their family members. They also accused the prison guards and camp officials of charging the family members fees for making arrangements ranging 100 to 500 yuan for visiting the prisoners.

Meanwhile they also complained against poor food and the extremely high labor intensity in the camp. Some of the prisoners collapsed from sheer exhaustion and split blood. Some of them even committed suicide as they could no longer withstand the hardship. It was for this reason that the camp authorities retaliated against and further persecuted the prisoners.

They stubbornly asserted that the granite processed by the prisoners was not up to standard and forced the prisoners to work overtime. They even canceled the evening recreation program and deprived the prisoners of their Sunday holidays. They stopped the camp canteen from supplying prisoners with cigarettes and snacks and temporarily forbade the family members from bringing food when they visited the prisoners. Afterwards, they even canceled the family members' visiting privilege all together.

At the same time, they retaliated against the prisoners named Wen, Zhang, and Shi who reported the true camp situation to the visiting officials. They accused these prisoners of destroying products and stirring up troubles. They beat these prisoners and kept them in solitary confinement, and ordered them to reveal the behind-the-scene plotters.

Bloody Rioting on 3 July Suffering such persecution, the prisoners finally refused to go back to their rooms to study after finishing their work and eating their dinner. They gave vent to their anger and created disturbances. They destroyed the electric power substation in the mining camp, set fire everywhere to burn down the camp, and disarmed more than 30 camp guards. With tools and iron rods in their hands, they encircled the office building in the camp, chanting the slogan We want to live, resist oppression, seek humane treatment, and oppose suppression.

The public security personnel and armed police stationed at the camp were ordered to open fire to disperse the prisoners. The prisoners rushed the east and west exit gates of the office building. The public security and armed police forces used machine guns to strafe the prisons. The prisoners used the guns which they seized from the prison guards to return fire at the public security and armed police forces. They also threw bottles filled with hydrochloric acid obtained from work sites and rocks at the soldiers and policemen.

Due to the loss of electric power for lighting, the entire mining camp with a total area of over 500,000 square miles was in total darkness. The situation became chaotic with both sides confronting each other.

The prisoners at one time occupied the top floor of the office building and the dormitory, using ironware, rocks, and hydrochloric acid bottles to ward off the attacks of the soldiers and policemen.

Meanwhile they also urged other prisoners to join the rioting. At 0200 hours in the early morning of the next day, the authorities called in more troops stationed in the cities of Chengdu and Leshan to carry out suppression, and also mobilized helicopters and armored cars to deal with the rioting prisoners. The riot continued and was finally quelled at 1600 hours on 4 July.

A Reform-Through-Labor Riot of the Largest Scale in Recent Years

According to a report, Secretary Xie Shijie of the Sichuan Provincial CPC Committee and Vice Public Security Minister Jiang Xianjin had personally inspected the mining camp after the incident.

The public security department admitted that during this 22-hour-long riot, more than 490 people died. Of the total, over 180 public security personnel and armed policemen were injured and 17 of them died. Three workshops were destroyed and scores of machines became useless. Two buildings and two dormitories were damaged. More than 200 prisoners escaped from the camp, and their whereabouts were unknown.

A public security department said that the 3 July Yaan Reform-Through-Labor Mining Camp riot was the largest in scale in recent years, and it was one with the heaviest casualties.