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Laogai becomes part of Oxford Dictionary
The Laogai Research Foundation
8/4/2003



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The Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) is pleased to announce the addition of word laogai into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). After over a decade of efforts to raise awareness and expose the laogai, China’s brutal system of labor camps, this marks a historical milestone for the LRF and its work.

The inclusion of the word laogai into the lexicon of the OED is recognition not only of the laogai’s existence, but is also acknowledgement of the hard work of those trying to expose its atrocities. According to Harry Wu, Executive Director of the LRF.

“LRF is pleased with the definition. It’s important that the definition is in the present tense,” Harry Wu said. “While the Soviet gulags are a thing of the past, the laogai is still fully operational, and the OED makes this distinction in its definitions.”

Entries from the Oxford English Dictionary Revised Tenth Edition:

laogai /lau'glI/ n. (the laogai) (in China) a system oflabour camps, many of whose inmates are political dissidents.
-ORIGIN Chin., ‘reform through labor’. – Page 799

Gulag /'gu:lag/ n. (the Gulag) a system of harsh labour camps maintained in the Soviet Union 1930-1955.
- ORIGIN Russ., from G(lavnoe) u(prvalenie ispravitel’notrudovykh) lag(erei) ‘Chief Administration for Corrective Labour Camps’. – Page 633

Entries from the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

the laogai in China, a system of labour camps, many of whose inmates are political dissidents. The name comes from Chinese, meaning ‘reform through labor’, and is recorded from English from the 1990s.
In 1996 the Chinese-born American activist, Harry Wu, said, ‘I want to see the word laogai in every dictionary in every language in the world. I want to see the laogai ended’ He went on to draw a parallel with the word gulag, suggesting that it was only as in the mid 1970s that the word became known that pressure for the system to end began to grow. – Page 584

Gulag a system of labour camps maintained in the Soviet Union from 1930-1955 in which many people died. Besides ordinary criminals, inmates included dissident intellectuals, political opponents and members of ethnic minorities; the word became widely known in the west in the 1960s and 1970s with the translation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work, notably The Gulag Archipelago.
The word is Russian, from G(lavnoe) u(prvalenie ispravitel’notrudovykh) lag(erei) ‘Chief Administration for Corrective Labour Camps’.

See also Ù the LAOGAI. – Page 449


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