Monday, October 13, 2008

Extraordinary Fidelity

Life in Communist China's gulags....

"We Felt We Had Been Buried Alive" by Yu Shan:

The living hell that I would know as home for 18 years was set up in 1950. Camp No. 8, part of the Xingkai Lake Prison Farm in the vast swampy wasteland along the Ke'ercha River in Heilongjiang province, was initially stocked with 80,000 Nationalist prisoners of war plus countless Chinese who had collaborated with Japan's occupation of Manchuria. A few years later, 300,000 "rightists" and "counterrevolutionaries" were sent to refill slots at the camp vacated by the dead.

In August 1962 cavalry troops escorted 8,000 of us to the camp. To get there, we had to march through 400 km of wilderness. The camp's 12-sq-m prison cells were squalid dens, set 6 m into the ground. The ceilings, just 2 m above the floor, were made from a mixture of wood, grass and mud. From a distance, the compound looked like a cemetery. On each "grave mound" stood a pole bearing just a number. We felt as if we had been buried alive.

My relatives, landholders in Sichuan province, were accustomed to suffering. Soon after the communists prevailed in 1949, 27 of my family were persecuted in the Land Reform Movement. Fifteen were sent to labor camps, while eight died of starvation in the "natural disaster" caused by Mao's misguided economic policies. In 1949 my mother was forced to perform supervised labor. She died in 1984, one year after she was freed from that task.

I was arrested in 1955. While serving as an officer in China's army, I was accused of being a counterrevolutionary and correctly unmasked as an intelligence officer for the kmt [Kuomintang, the Nationalist Chinese who fled to Taiwan following the victory of the communists on the mainland in 1949 -- YD]. I was interrogated at a detention house outside Beijing's Desheng Gate and thrown in jail. On June 23, 1958, I was taken to an execution ground with others condemned to death.

Please read the rest of "We Felt We Had Been Buried Alive".

For a story that will make you proud to be an American, read Two CIA Prisoners in China, 1952–73, a story about two CIA officers on a mission that led them into a trap in China during the Korean War.

1 comment:

MK said...

Thanks for those two stories Yankee, what a world we live in. Their suffering really puts our small complaints in perspective.