Harry Wu: Illuminating China’s Dark Secrets
In 1960, a young Chinese man criticised his government, forever changing the course of his life.
At 23, Harry Wu was never formally charged or tried, but he spent the next 19 years in a forced labor camp, or Laogai, suffering systematic starvation, torture, and the deaths of fellow inmates.
Wu is one of the rare individuals who has transformed his experiences into action. He was released in 1979, and came to the US in 1985 with just $40 in his pocket. Since that time, he has traveled back to China multiple times to further investigate Laogai camps and continue his call for human rights in China.
Wu founded of the Laogai Research Foundation in 1992 to gather information on and raise public awareness of the Chinese Laogai.
The Foundation has grown over the past 18 years, and provides information on some of China’s most pressing human rights issues: forced labor, the one child policy, illegal organ harvesting, the death penalty, and Internet freedom.
Before Liu Xiaobo swept to prominence as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the LRF had already published Civil Awakening: The Daw of a Free China, Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 and China’s Transformation. In fact, in In 2008, Yahoo! named the Laogai Research Foundation administrator of the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund. The Fund provides humanitarian and legal assistance to persons in the People’s Republic of China (who, like Liu) have been imprisoned or persecuted for expressing their views on the Internet.
In the US, Wu has tirelessly advocated to bring awareness to China’s dark secrets. This year alone, he attended the Nobel ceremony for his fellow country-mate and dissident, Liu Xiaobo, won the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and launched the Laogai Archives, an online repository for information on all known Laogai camps and the products they produce, as well as smuggled out classified documents, photos, and and video.
In Spring of 2011, the foundation will open the Laogai Museum in Washington DC, a testimony to the injustices citizens under the PRC suffer daily.
I first learned of Harry Wu when Ven. Palden Gyatso visited with me in New York. Palden for years has been an inspiration to me, he himself survived 33 years as a political prisoner in Tibet. The LRF had recently translated Palden’s book, Fire Under the Snow, into Chinese as part of their collection of prisoner’s stories known as ‘The Black Series.’
The more time, I spent on their website, the more entranced I was. Harry Wu has dedicated his life to information, and making it easily accessible, not an easy task when dealing with the PRC’s arbitrary restrictions and tight-lipped procedures. Here, an easy parallel is drawn between China’s dark side, and how it affects us directly.
I have found endless information on how concentration camp-made goods enter Western markets illegally, the true source of the infamous ‘Bodies’ exhibit that has been making the rounds in US cities, and the horrific tales of forced sterilization and abortion young Chinese women face under the one child policy, and the role the workplace takes in reporting them to authorities.
There is no arguing that the PRC has presented itself as a world player; but they will have a hard time silencing this whistle blower, as he educates and advocates. Harry Wu, you are an inspiration.
Laogai Research Foundation