In January, following the appointment of the new government, there was a lot of talk of the changes that would come. Newsweek reported that there would be reforms to China’s labor camp system, the laojiao.
The laojiaos made news in the US last December when a K-Mart shopper found a note from a labor camp worker in her Halloween decoration. Like a message in a bottle, it was a desperate plea for rescue. The note’s authenticity was questioned, and K-Mart issued a wag of the finger to any companies that used forced labor to make their bargain goods, but not a lot came out of it.
Now its April, and the government has vowed to make reforms, but with few details offered, and big challenges facing real change. The laojiaos have become profitable, and China’s not interested in losing its foothold as the world’s cheap labor leader. Perhaps the biggest roadblock of all is finding an effective, humane, and efficient system for silencing political dissidents. Blocking access to Facebook is easy, but building a better Guantanamo… that’s another story.