Years back, as older readers will testify, one of the major criticisms of the Soviet Union was its arbitrary use of the gulag.
“The Zhuzhou Baimalong Labour Camp is an imposing sight, built like a prison.
At the front there’s a giant, curved facade, lined with classical columns, where the main gate stands. Behind it is a sprawling collection of white buildings, some six or seven storeys high, with workshops, vegetable gardens and a parade ground, all surrounded by a high wall and watchtowers.
The camp is just one component in China’s sprawling gulag system, known as “laojiao”. These camps are a throwback to the years just after China’s Communist revolution, and many outside China don’t even know they still exist.
There’s a constant flow of police vehicles and buses in and out of the camp. It’s big enough to hold hundreds of inmates, all sent here to undergo “re-education through labour”. You see them every now and again, in lines, walking from one building to another, performing exercises.
Drifting on the wind you can hear the chants of inmates, undergoing their forced re-education. Just an order from a policeman is enough to have you locked up here for as long as four years.
Tang Hui, a former inmate, guides us closer to the huge camp gate. Her incarceration here last year caused outrage in China.
“It was living nightmare. A real nightmare would have been better. I could have woken up from that,” she says, dissolving into tears.”
The Tories were caught breaking the law, by those dastardly radical High Court judges, but with boundless gall they are now changing that law, to prove they are innocent:
“The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.
The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening and expected to be rushed through parliament on Tuesday, will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants an average payout of between £530 and £570 each.
Last month the court of appeal ruled that science graduate Cait Reilly and fellow complainant and unemployed lorry driver Jamieson Wilson had been unlawfully made to work unpaid for organisations including Poundland because the DWP had not given jobseekers enough legal information about what they were being made to do.
The ruling meant that hundreds of thousands of jobseekers who had been financially penalised for falling foul of half a dozen employment schemes, including the government’s flagship Work Programme, would have been entitled to a full rebate if a final government appeal was rejected by the supreme court.”
Golden Dawn’s growth has galvanised its supporters as Giorgos Katidis showed, openly giving a Nazi salute. I can’t help feeling that the lessons on the grotesque and propulsive nature of fascism never really sunk in, and that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to its resurgence.
Finally, it might sound cruel but I feel more politicians should spend time in prison, to better understand the realities of life and meet some of their future constituents. No doubt it would be hard on them, but they would probably write a book and make a small fortune from their, temporary, incarceration.
Still, I wasn’t at all surprised that Chris Hulne and Vicky Pryce were given cushy billets within Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
It is their release that worries me.
They will probably put themselves forward as both experts and victims of the penal system, as Jonathan Aitken did.