Synopses & Reviews
"China is so big and so diverse that, as in the proverbial blind man touching an elephant, contemporary descriptions that vary dramatically can all be true. Few visitors to glittering Shanghai of Shenzhen, for example, will get any impression of the gaping gray maw of the government's prison camp system that Philip Williams and Yenna Wu, basing themselves on a vast range of Chinese sources, illuminate in erudite detail. The authors look at every facet of the camps, place them within China's historical tradition, and compare them with modern analogues. Throughout, literary and autobiographical sources give the 'feel' for the deadening world of the camps."and#151;Perry Link, author of The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System
"The Great Wall of Confinement deals with issues ranging from the legal groundingand#151;or the lack of anyand#151;of the Chinese concentration camp system, to its technical implementation, its discursive manifestation, and its physical as well as psychological impact. A book like this is long overdue. With this work, Williams and Wu have made an important contribution to the fields of Chinese legal and literary studies."and#151;David Der-wei Wang, author of The Monster That Is History
"The Great Wall of Confinement is an excellent book. It synthesizes an already significant corpus of writings on Chinese prisons and labor camps, marshals an array of literary sources as essential historical source materials, and compares the literature of Chinese incarceration with its Soviet and European counterparts. The value of this important study stems equally from its toneand#151;a rare combination of a level-headed quality with a very fine sensitivity to the human tragedy recounted in this literature."and#151;Jean-Luc Domenach, author of Oand#249; va la Chine? (Where does China Go?)
"The Great Wall of Confinement has attempted to lift part of the veil on China's long lasting tragedy: the use of imprisonment, torture, forced labor against its citizens, whether criminals, feeble minded or simply political opponents. The angle is new; the question is to find out how Chinese have written on this subject, whether in fiction or reportage, the way they went about telling their stories, how much they said, or withheld. Through Philip Willams and Yenna Wu's thought-provoking analysis of such writings, of the cultural origins of forced labor and imprisonment in imperial and Communist China, one comes closer to this sinister reality, which remains to this day one of the best kept secrets of our planet."and#151;Marie Holzman, President of the Association Solidaritand#233; Chine
China is the only major world power to have entered the twenty-first century with a thriving prison camp networkand#151;a frightening, mostly hidden realm known since 1951 as the laogai system. This book, the most comprehensive study of China's prison camps to date, draws from a wide range of primary sources, including many compelling literary documents, to illuminate life inside China's prison camps. Focusing mainly on the second half of the twentieth century, Philip F. Williams and Yenna Wu outline the evolution of the laogai system, construct a vivid picture of prisoners' lives from arrest and interrogation to release, and provide a troubling new perspective on the human rights issues plaguing China.
About the Author
Philip F. Williams is Professor and Head,and#160;Schooland#160;of Language Studies, Massey University, New Zealand. His previous books include Village Echoes: The Fiction of Wu Zuxiang (1993). Yenna Wu is Professor of Chinese and Director of the Asian Languages and Civilizations Program at the University of California at Riverside and author of The Chinese Virago: A Literary Theme (1995), Ameliorative Satire (1999), among other books.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. The Cultural Foundations of China's Prison Camp System
2. The Development of the Chinese Communist Prison Camp
3. The PRC Prison Camp (I): From Arrest of Forced Labor
4. The PRC Prison Camp (II): From Struggle Sessoins to Release or Death
5. Prison Writings
Chinese Character Glossary