A 47-year-old Beijing resident has confirmed that he was behind a letter discovered last year inside a package of Halloween decorations in Oregon that provided a firsthand account into the alleged abuses that occur within China's "re-education" labor camps.
The note, which some questioned its authenticity, was scribbled in broken English on onionskin paper. The message renewed the media's interest in the notorious facilities where dissidents are taken and forced to conform to the Communist regime through labor.
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The note read: "Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. ... Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."
The man has since been released from the Masanjia camp and would only identify himself as "Zhang." Fearing retribution from the regime, he said he stuffed the note, along with at least 20 others, inside packages manufactured at his labor camp with English lettering, hoping someone from the West would discover it.
The package of Halloween decorations made its way some 5,000 miles to an Oregon Kmart, where a mother of two, Julie Keither, purchased it. Keith handed the note over to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Though the package was purchased in 2010, the note was not discovered until a year later when Keith opened it.
"For a long time I would fantasize about some of the letters being discovered overseas, but over time I just gave up hope and forgot about them," said Zhang, who was imprisoned because he follows the spiritual discipline Falun Gong.
Banned in China since 1999, Falun Gong incorporates meditation and slow-moving exercises with moral philosophy.
Zhang's confirmation that he wrote the note last month gave several other former prisoners the confidence to speak up and share their own stories.
"Sometimes the guards would drag me around by my hair or apply electric batons to my skin for so long, the smell of burning flesh would fill the room," former prisoner Chen Shenchun, 55, said.
Shenchun reportedly received a two-year sentence for refusing to give up a petition campaign to recover unpaid wages from a state-owned factory.
According to former inmates, approximately half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners
or members of underground churches, the New York Times reported.
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