LIFE IN EXILE
A "Labor Camp" Beyond Imagination
Life in the Labor Camp was extremely hard. The 20,000 inmates sent here had no place to live (not even tents) and had to build cottages from scratch. Even so, we had to labor first before we could build. Many inmates, therefore, lived under the tall and huge trees from which they hung mosquito nets. They spread mats over hay and rolled up some belongings for use as pillows, placing the rest of their belongings (basic needs for all seasons) at one end of the mat. My squad was allotted temporary living space in an old, dilapidated cottage in Zou Village. With 3 walls, no window, no ceiling, shattered roof-tiles and droppings of wild cats, squirrels and birds, it was in an awfully filthy condition. We had to clean it up well to make it more "livable." On rainy days, the cottage was flooded with dark-brown foul water. I was reminded of Jesus' words, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head" (Matt. 8:20). My fellow inmates consisted of murderers, hardened thieves, rapists, swindlers, snatchers, gangsters, beggars and "historical counter-revolutionaries1."
More than a dozen times a year this coastal semi-virgin forest was hit by typhoons, with rainstorms occurring every week in the summer. For almost half a year before we had finished setting up our simple cottages, our luggage was soaked through in just a few minutes when rainstorms hit.
There was never a day here in northern Fujian that we had a full meal (in fact, I was not even half-filled, including days of festivities.) I had somewhat experienced what Paul said, "We both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed and beaten, and homeless " (I Cor. 4:11). Therefore, many died of hunger, starting with those who were physically strong. That was because they exerted more energy than others but ate the same portion of food; thus, they died for under-nourishment and over-exertion. Some of the inmates who stayed near the mountain-tops also died of cold. Within 4 years, just before the Camp moved to Anhui Province in 1962, more than half of the inmates had died (including those who died of illness, suicide, etc.).
1. Members of the Kuomin Party (the former government) who had served in political, military, intelligence, and administrative positions.