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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Activist Harry Wu speaks on China

Speaking to a packed audience in 105 Dartmouth last night, Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu attacked the Communist regime of China for imprisoning and executing dissidents.

Wu, who spent 19 years in China's labor camp system, said he was one of over 500,000 citizens the Chinese government tried to systematically eradicate from their society. Wu cited examples of prisoners who were jailed for nothing more than expressing minor concerns with the Communist regime.

"This is a clear violation of human rights," Wu said.

Freed from the labor camps in 1979, Wu was told that he "had a big tail" and to "keep it between his legs." Unfortunately for the Chinese government, however, Wu has done no such thing.

He has testified numerous times against the uniform elimination of dissenters in China and had spoken to audiences at college campuses around the world. The government of China recently labeled Wu their "number one troublemaker" and arrested on a trip to China in 1995.

Although he possessed both a United States passport and a Chinese visa, Wu was detained for 20 days for allegedly smuggling out government documents, but he was released due to international pressure. "If I was not an American citizen, I would be dead right now," Wu said.

Indeed, Wu was nearly killed while in the labor camps. At one point, after a series of torturing, labor camp police prepared a coffin for him.

In his speech last night, however, Wu chose not to dwell on his own experience, but focused on those who had not survived: "The nameless, the voiceless" who were turned to ashes.

Wu compared the current Chinese situation to the Holocaust, the "killing fields" of Cambodia, and Joseph Stalin's "Gulag" as a means of purging a specific group from a society. Wu also expressed hopes that one day the current Chinese "Laogai" will be remembered for being an atrocity equal to these others.

The Laogai, Wu said, is an attempt to purge all suspected "troublemakers" from China, and, like the Holocaust, has divided people in an effort to achieve a "totally Red" country. Unlike the Nazis, however, China's government has segregated people by class: landlords, peasants, capitalists, and workers. The targets of the elimination, said Wu, are the landlords and the capitalists.

Although much of China has been declared "Red" by the government, Wu claimed that, unlike 10 years ago, the majority of China doesn't believe in Communism. "Unlike in the day of Mao [Zedung], the Chinese don't see Communism as the paradise it once appeared to be," Wu said. "They have learned with their tears and blood."

After outlining China's fundamental human rights violations, Wu showed a segment of ABC's PrimeTime which featured hidden camera footage of the execution of Chinese political prisoners and the subsequent "blood market" of organs taken from these inmates.

The segment went on to document Chinese doctors who were selling the kidneys of executed prisoners to wealthy Asians, as well as Americans.

In addition to Americans in the market for organs, Wu also lambasted U.S. businesses so eager to corner "the 1.2 billion customer market" they ignore Chinese human rights transgressions. Wu went on to say that American companies are more concerned with copyrights than human rights.

Finally, the audience watched secret footage of a graphic public execution of dozens of prisoners. In the silence that followed, Wu turned and asked one final question: "Does America want to do business with these people?"