Former Chinese Labor Camp Chief Says Regime "Sickened" Him

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Crack troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the public face of China's Communist Party. Photo: AFP/Frederic J. Brown

TORONTO—A former overseer of labor camps from the northeastern city of Shenyang, Han Guangsheng, has said he defected while on a trip to Canada because he was sickened by the level of brutality, human rights abuses and corruption in the Chinese Communist Party.

Toronto-based Han moved from a privileged position of relative luxury as the head of the Shenyang municipal judicial bureau, to a tiring life running a one-man delivery business after he defected during a visit to Canada four years ago, he told RFA's Mandarin service.

"Even though I was a high-ranking official in China...I didn’t constitute a complete human being, because I had to live my life wearing a mask and act against my conscience," Han told RFA reporter Xi Hong.

"I was greatly pained. I saw myself as just a high-paid slave and lackey. After I came here, life was very hard but I became a true human being," said Han, who also served as deputy police chief for the city.

Hopes for a new life

"I don’t have to carry out any duty that betrays my conscience. That’s why I believed the choices I made were an incredible milestone in the latter part of my life. I sacrificed a lot for the decision but I was able to gain a new life," Han added.

I believed the choices I made were an incredible milestone.... I sacrificed a lot for the decision but I was able to gain a new life

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce reported last year that 4,000 officials had escaped the country in recent years, taking an estimated five billion yuan (U.S.$617 million) in embezzled funds with them.

Chinese law enforcement agencies are hampered by a lack of extradition treaties and a poor human-rights reputation, which makes Western governments reluctant to hand over suspects who may face execution.

"Many people were not very understanding when I first defected from China and many have criticized and speculated about me personally since I stepped forward to expose the inside stories," Han said.

"I can absolutely understand these reactions. I can even understand why some people in the overseas Chinese community criticized me as a corrupt official on the Internet, because the official circle is indeed extremely corrupt in China. Nobody can distinguish which officers are actually honorable anymore," he said.

While Han said his decision to leave was motivated by his own conscience, he was unable to say he was morally impeccable.

No claim to innocence

"The way I see it, being an official in a corrupted political system, I’m afraid I cannot claim I am completely innocent," he told RFA's Mandarin service.

During his time in the Shenyang municipal government, Han oversaw the mass round-up of members of the banned spiritual movement, the Falun Gong in his area.

"At that time (1999), I protested that the labor camps were for housing criminals and not suitable for members of the Falun Gong."

The deputy municipal Party secretary told Han he had to obey orders, and said that the secretary, not Han, would take responsibility if anything went wrong. "During that period of arrest, I was a torn man," Han said.

He said that many of the Falun Gong followers were ordinary people, mostly women from respectable homes. "No matter how you look at the situation, these people were the true victims. Although I was a man of conscience, I was not able to disobey my superiors," he said.

"I can truly say I’ve not been completely innocent. But, I still have my principles. My conscience is my last defense," said Han.

Waiting for Canadian courts to decide

Han's application for political asylum in Canada was rejected in April, and he faces possible deportation after the federal Immigration and Refugee Board ruled him ineligible to stay in Canada because he was a "willing accomplice" in crimes against humanity in his former job.

Lai Changxing, a former official accused of running a massive smuggling network, is one of those near the top of China's most-wanted list. But Lai has been able to stay in Canada since fleeing there in 1999 while his legal case works its way through the Canadian judicial system.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xi Hong. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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