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Forced Labor in China

DW staff with wire reports (kjb)May 11, 2007

Amid protests from Beijing, the German parliament Thursday condemned Chinese labor camps and called for special labels on goods produced in labor camps. Human rights activist Harry Wu came to Berlin for the vote.

Harry Wu spent 19 years in a Chinese labor campImage: AP

Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, appealed for the Laogai labor camp in China to be closed down. The declaration, which was approved by a wide margin, condemned forced labor and child labor, as well as the use of torture, over-exhaustion and malnutrition as methods of punishment.

The motion also called for goods produced in labor camps to be identified with special labels.

Only the Left party parliamentary group voted against the declaration, which they said didn't go far enough toward upholding human rights.

Criticism from Beijing

The Chinese embassy in Germany has protested against the motion, which was brought by all of Germany's main political parties.

"We are opposed to irresponsible statements concerning China's domestic affairs from any country, including from the German parliament," said a statement from the embassy published in Germany's Tageszeitung daily.

The use of labor camps is "not a criminal act, but a legitimate way to ensure public security and prevent crime," the statement said.

Prominent Chinese dissident in Berlin

One of the most outspoken Chinese dissidents, Harry Wu, came to Berlin Thursday as a guest of the speaker of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, Norbert Lammert.

In a conversation with Wu, Lammert said that Germany respected the internal affairs of other countries, but that basic rights were a matter of international concern, according to German news service dpa.

Harry Wu spent 19 years in a Chinese prison camp and later became a US citizen. He heads a group in Washington that researches the camps and the products made in them.

International human rights groups estimate there are more than 1,000 labor camps with between four and six million inmates, presumed to be mainly political dissidents and members of ethnic and religious minorities. Campaigners say prisoners are subjected to long working hours, dangerous working conditions and poor diets.

Menschenrechtsverletzung in China, Archivbild
As a religious minority, Falun Gong members are subject to persecution in ChinaImage: AP