Since last Hallowe'en, a woman in Oregon has been circulating a letter she found in a box of decorative tombstones she bought at Kmart. The letter was written by a prisoner in a forced labor camp in China's Masanjia camp; he was imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong, a banned religion whose members have long been targetted for brutal suppression by the Chinese state. CNN located the ex-prisoner and interviewed him as he narrated a story of "inhumane torture" at the camp.
Their staff in Beijing spent months searching for the man. Finally, they found him and confirmed his identity, but didn't reveal it to the public. He is a follower of Falun Gong, which most of the world calls a Buddhist-Taoist spiritual movement but the Chinese government considers a dangerous cult. He was sentenced to two and a half years in the Masanjia labor camp.
He reports sleep deprivation, beatings, and other misery in the labor camp. Making Halloween decorations for no pay was actually a reprieve for the inmates. Still, he decided to send a total of six letters, somehow procuring two items that inmates weren't supposed to have: paper (taken from a re-education workbook) and a pen. He wrote the letter in bed, in the dark, avoiding the gaze of the guard who watched everyone while they slept. You know, to make sure they weren't doing anything subversive like sending letters to the West in the products they were packaging.
Inside The Chinese Labor Camp That Made Halloween Decorations Sold At Kmart [Laura Northrup/Consumerist]