torsdag 18. april 2024

In Retrospect: Qincheng, A Twentieth Century Bastille, by Wei Jinsheng (March 1979)

The Chinese dissident Wei Jinsheng spent years in Qincheng Prison outside Beijing. 

"Qincheng is strictly isolated from the outside world. Only former prisoners, their families, and close friends know about it. The prison is administered by the Fifth Section of the Ministry of Public Security, whose members are solely responsible for it. Regular policemen do not know the nature of Qincheng. The guards are carefully selected. One criterion is age; prisoners report never seeing guards over twenty. They are replaced at regular intervals.

Prisoners are divided into four classes according to whether their food costs eight, fifteen, twenty-five, or forty yuan [per month]. Actually, corruption on the part of both personnel and the institution prevents the prisoners from receiving what they are officially allotted. For example, if the official monthly ration is 17.5 kilograms, a person who never exercises actually cannot even eat half of that. The entire amount is nonetheless purchased, even though what is left over cannot be stored. It is said that the guards feed it to the pigs, which are then sold to supplement the guards' own diet.

When it comes to dispensing food, the Qincheng guards are reported to be quite ingenious. Food is withheld as a means of punishment. One of the lightest and most common punishments is first to starve the prisoner and then give him or her a bowl of very greasy noodles as "compensation." Most, of course, become ill as a result and have to miss the next few meals as well. Each inmate occupies a separate one-by-three-meter cell containing a basin of water, a chamber pot, and a plank bunk with a thin bed cover. The black prison uniform is replaced every six months."