The Nanfang / Blog


Dongguan jail home to 500 foreigners

Posted: 07/23/2013 2:14 pm

A fascinating report on Dongguan’s prison system in The Daily Sunshine has claimed that of the 5,000 inmates in the jail on Xinzhou Island in Dongguan’s Shijie Village, there are 500 foreign nationals from 53 countries, as well as some people with no nationality. Most of them are there for drug-related crimes.

What’s more, one of the inmates has a very peculiar claim to fame – he went to the same St Petersburg university as Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Shevchenco was sentenced to ten years in 2007 being involved in a fight that led to the death of a man in Jiangmen. Before the incident, the 29-year-old master’s graduate was the manager in charge of a branch office of a foreign trade company.

In prison, as well as winning much praise for good behaviour, Shevchenco has learned much about Chinese language and culture. Now that he can speak and write Chinese, he was asked what he intends to do when he gets out and whether he intends to stay in China. In response, he quoted the sentence from “The Analects of Confucius”: “While your parents are alive, do not journey afar.”

Another prisoner with an interesting story was a 52 year-old identified only as Roman. He says he has learned much about human nature while in jail. He used to be a lousy judge of character, he claims, and says the reason he ended up in jail is because he foolishly trusted a Chinese girlfriend. But when he gets out, he says he will be extremely careful when choosing what women he associates with and what food he eats.

Roman, who has Singaporean nationality was sentenced to 12 years for fraud in May 2007, has had his sentence reduced four times. He has used his time in jail to gain qualifications in mechanical engineering, business management and hotel management. He also uses his advanced English and Mandarin skills to act as a translator and teach other inmates. His star pupil, a man from Uganda identified as Kadasha, was able to accept an interview from the paper in Chinese. He can also read the magazine Chinese Geographical Science in Chinese.

The first foreigner to be detained at the jail was a Nepalese drug trafficker in 1996. After China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, a large number of Southeast Asian convicts wound up in the jail. 2007 saw the first inmates from both Africa and the Middle East.

One thing foreign prisoners find particularly hard to acclimatise to is prison labour, as this obligation was not stipulated when they were sentenced.

Prison guards told the paper that African inmates had developed a reputation for throwing sick days, while Europeans and Americans were generally well behaved but had a reputation for asking for time off on days that would be festivals in their home countries.

Some multinational companies were recently embroiled in a scandal for allegedly using products that had been made in a Dongguan jail.

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