China Chinese prisons Hong Kong

Knock Knock

Surveillance is an ancient Chinese art. To monitor the enemy, Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.) advocated the use of spies: local, inward, converted, doomed and surviving. The emperor should deploy all five kinds in times of war and in peace. Last week, Hong Kong arrested 53 activists for allegedly subverting state power. The police needed no […]

China Chinese prisons

The Cop and the Showgirl

The Cop and the Showgirl sounds like a hard-boiled detective novel. Or a screwball comedy with lots of feathered costumes. But this blog post is about Meng Hongwei, the supercop, and Fan Bingbing, the starlet. They are the most famous victims to date of China’s newest form of repression: liuzhi. liuzhi Human Rights Watch calls […]

Chinese prisons The Shanghai Quartet


The third volume of my Shanghai Quartet is set in a Chinese labor camp. Laogai will be a series of interlocking short stories of the men incarcerated in that place. The jailers and the jailed, the victims and the perpetrators. One of the prisoners I’ve simply called the Uighur. He works as an enforcer for […]

Books Chinese prisons

Gulag with Chinese Characteristics

Let’s blame the Russians. After all, they’re the ones who first lit the flame of Marxist-Leninist socialism. The 1917 revolution was just the start. Russians taught the world how to collectivize farms, quash dissent and foment worldwide revolution. As Charles Clover writes: Starting soon after the Bolshevik revolution [in 1917], Soviet leaders offered sanctuary and […]

Censorship Chinese prisons

Prisoner #42816

Prisoner #42816 spent 23 months in a Chinese jail, first in the Shanghai Detention Center and later in Qingpu Prison. The charge was “illegally acquiring personal information” of Chinese nationals, a claim he vehemently denies to this day. Prisoner #42816 is Briton Peter Humphrey. Last month, he published his first account of My life inside […]