Xin Yu | Radio Free Asia
A former inmate of a notorious labor camp in China has escaped from house arrest following her release from criminal detention, vowing to continue her lawsuit against the authorities about her treatment at the facility.
Liu Hua was freed this week from criminal detention linked to her role in a cutting-edge documentary that exposed widespread abuses at the Masanjia women’s labor camp in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
She was placed on house arrest following her release from a detention center in the Liaoning capital Shenyang on Monday but managed to escape to Beijing where she met up with the director of the “Above the Ghosts’ Heads: The Women of Masanjia Labor Camp” documentary.
In an interview with RFA following her escape, Liu, a key participant in the documentary, said she now plans to renew her complaints with the Beijing authorities about her treatment at the Masanjia Women’s Re-education Through Labor facility outside Shenyang where she spent three years.
She was banished to the camp for lodging persistent complaints against the government, especially on corruption in her home village of Zhangliangbao.
In her interview, Liu accused the government of illegally detaining her last month in a bid to punish her for exposing the ill-treatment at the labor camp.
“They illegally kidnapped me and locked me up,” said Liu, who was detained on March 10 in Beijing by Shenyang police and later taken to the Shenyang No. 1 Detention Center under criminal detention.
“They wanted to turn black into white, and made as if none of the horrors and reality of Masanjia [were true],” said Liu, who said she had had many verbal confrontations with police during her detention.
Liu, who was held for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” said she has been questioned repeatedly by police officers about the allegations of torture she made in the film, directed by Du Bin, and about her attempts to petition China’s parliament in February alongside 20 other former Masanjia inmates.
“Perhaps they wanted to rewrite history,” Liu said. “They summoned me for interrogation on many occasions, but after a while I quit talking to them, and I just let them talk.”
Torture and abuse
Former inmates have detailed a regime of daily torture and abuse, failure of medical care, and grueling overtime at Masanjia, a police-run facility where women regarded as troublemakers by the authorities were sent without trial for up to four years at a time.
In the film directed by Du Bin, Liu describes how camp guards beat the female detainees, used electric batons to shock their breasts, inserted the batons and poured chilli peppers into their vaginas and put them into various torture devices such as “the Death Bed” and “the Tiger’s Bench.”
She said the police had repeatedly denied during her interrogation sessions that they abused inmates at Masanjia.
Du defended all of the allegations contained in it, however.
“They say that the Masanjia documentary is full of empty and fabricated allegations,” he said.
“I would like to tell the Liaoning provincial state security police that I interviewed 30 of the victims, and that they gave first-hand accounts of their treatment [at Masanjia],” Du said.
“The authorities have never sought out these inmates to confirm their stories, and yet they are all living evidence,” he said.
Liu said her leg injury, left over from torture and abuse at the hands of Masanjia security guards, still troubles her to this day.
“My leg isn’t straight, which means I can’t get up steps or stairs,” she told RFA’s Mandarin Service. “I can’t bend it at all.”
She said she had been provided with oxygen, but little else in the way of relief for her medical problems while in the detention center.
Liu said she plans to continue to sue the former Masanjia Women’s Re-education Through Labor camp, which is now a drug rehabilitation facility.
In a campaign page dedicated to Liu Hua on its website, Amnesty International credited her with helping to raise the profile of labor camp victims.
“Liu Hua made a valuable contribution to push for human rights improvements in China, and continues to be targeted as a result,” the group said.
China’s “re-education through labor” camp-based punishment system was officially abolished at the end of last year, but victims who try to seek compensation are still harassed by the authorities, rights activists say.
China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) voted on Dec. 28, 2013, to end the system of administrative punishments known in Chinese as “laojiao,” following a prolonged campaign by lawyers, former inmates, and rights activists.
However, lawyers and inmates’ families say many of the former police-controlled camps are still in operation under a different name, rebranded as either drug rehabilitation centers or “legal education centers,” where those regarded as troublemakers by police continue to be held without trial.
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