ω How I donated my blood, sperm to regain freedom in China
BY LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU and AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja
Daniel Nnaemeka Ofokailie is a Chinese ex-prisoner. According to him, he unknowingly left the shores of Nigeria, with parcel of marijuana in his bag, to search for a greener pasture in China. And, he paid the price for trusting his kinsman, by serving eight years of labourious sentence.
Throughout his ordeal, the averagely built, dark-skinned Imo indigene from Oru East Local Government Area of the state spent a total of two hours as a freeman in Beijing. The first time was when he stepped out of his plane and was arrested and went through court process till he was sentenced. The second time was when he was released and deported through the same airport.
According to Ofokailie, the Beijing No. 2 Prison, located in Chao Yang District, Beijing City, China, was his abode for the eight years his sentence lasted. He was turned into a farmer; planting, weeding and harvesting crops with his bare hands.
Genesis of an ordeal
His ordeal started when he left Nigeria to go to China in 2009 to buy clothing goods. “Unfortunately, one of my brothers gave me a package to deliver to another brother there,” he recalled. “In the process, I was caught in China; I didn’t know that what was inside the package was marijuana.
“I was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment but I ended up spending eight years; I was released early for cooperation. There is what is called limitation of sentence. It is only when you work hard without complaining that you are entitled to such benefit. But right now they have stopped the benefit and would rather ask the prisoners to source for money to pay their release fee. I was lucky I had some reduction but many in there are not as lucky as I was. I was sentenced in one hour. The judge and jury is the police. The lawyer there is just for formality. No lawyer can help you.”
Ofokailie counts himself lucky because his body physique could endure the harsh treatment meted out to prisoners by the Chinese prison authorities. The benefits were not given because of the authority’s concern for humanity, he said, but to maximize the productivity of its prisoners. In his own case, he was asked to work for 13 hours a day with one-hour break and one meal for the day. He ate only rice throughout his years of imprisonment and was compelled to watch the same TV programme.
Life behind bars in China
His words: “My usual day starts with cleaning up and answering morning roll call. The next thing is factory work where I worked from 6am to 11 am. I then resumed at 12 noon and worked till 6:30 pm and go to bed. It is during the rest period that I eat my only food for the day. Most of the job we do there is hand farming; we farm with our bare hands. Another bizarre punishment is that we were forced to watch Chinese programmes. It is same thing every day, at a point we memorized the show. It is a punishable offence not to watch the television. It is a form of brainwashing. The food that they give us once a day is rubber-like. It is white and plain. And it must not be wasted.”
With lack of balance diet, Daniel and other inmates were expected to be under the weather, and when they are, they dare not visit the hospitals. Yet, they are expected to donate blood and sperm every month for scientific experimentation.
“Health consideration is once in two months,” he said. “There is general check up. Whenever I am sick, I wait for general check-up. You can’t take the medication offered in the prison because you might get sicker or end up having your vital organs harvested from you. They don’t want quick death to avoid official probing on the cause. Rather, they prefer one to die slowly.
“Some of my friends who were sentenced to death had their organs checked before they were given the needle. Kidney is the most valued organs for them. This is part of the reason most prisoners there don’t go to the hospital because they have their ways of removing organs. They also ask prisoners to ejaculate inside cups and it would be taken from them. This is done mostly to prisoners who are tall and strong. This plus the fact that you have to donate blood every month. When we try to enquire they say it is for check-up meanwhile we go to proper hospitals once in two months for that.
Stories of helpless Nigerians languishing in Chinese prisons
“When I was leaving China, many of my friends I left behind were in pain. I was able to leave because I agreed to the blood donation and I didn’t suffer its effect but some of them could not donate or do the hard labour; neither was their sperm very productive. So the Chinese government left them to rot away in prison.”
Ofokailie told Saturday Sun his reason for opening up. He said that he was able to survive because his body structure could take the torture but there are almost 200 inmates who cannot do so and who are behind bars because they don’t have someone to help them.
He particularly mentioned one Chukwudi Brown Atuchukwu and Innocent Ofege. The former, he said, has been in Chinese prison for 15 years awaiting trial while the latter has gone mad. Atuchukwu’s case was pending because nobody has come up to take it up while Ofege was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after eating his own faeces.
Giving reasons their condition has grown worse, he attributed it to the absence of an ambassador or consular from Nigeria. “It has been about four years now since a Nigerian ambassador or a consular visited the prisons last” he said. “If we have an ambassador there who’s been doing so regularly he would have been able to free Nigerian inmates. After all, the Chinese government said that government of other countries can ask and have their citizens deported to go and serve their jail terms in their home countries,” he stated.
Chinese Embassy reacts
The Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China, Abuja, said allegations that organs of Nigerians in Chinese prisons were harvested for research and laboratory experiment were ridiculous.
An official at the Embassy who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were fed up with such reports.
“It is ridiculous, baseless and malicious rumour,” the Chinese official stated in a text message while responding to Saturday Sun’s inquiry on the veracity of the report.