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Harry Wu

Harry Wu was a Chinese dissident, rights defender, and former political prisoner. Wu was the founder the Laogai Research Foundation and worked for decades to alert the world to the abusive and inhumane conditions in China’s forced labor camps, known as laogai. Wu was a university student when he was imprisoned in the laogai for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s regime. He spent 19 years in the camps, enduring hard physical labor and witnessing the brutal deaths of countless of his fellow prisoners. He was regularly forced to “confess” to his crimes. Released in 1979, Wu immigrated to the U.S. in 1985. In 1990, he was asked to testify about the laogai before the U.S. Senate, an experience that began his career as a human rights advocate. In 1992, Wu began a full-time career in raising awareness about the laogai. On a research trip to China in 1995, he was arrested, tried, and convicted for “spreading state secrets” and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Thanks to an international movement for his release, the Chinese government ejected him from the country. In 2008 Wu founded the Laogai Museum in Washington, D.C., dedicated to victims of Communism. More recently, Wu helped two Chinese dissidents win a lawsuit against Yahoo, which revealed their identities to Chinese security authorities in a move that resulted in their incarceration. Yahoo subsequently issued a grant to Wu’s organization to be allocated as an ongoing aid program for families of Chinese dissidents. Wu authored a memoir, “Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China’s Gulag,” lectured around the world, and testified regularly before governing bodies. For his advocacy efforts, Wu received numerous awards including the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the Freedom Award from the Hungarian Freedom Fighters’ Federation, and the Medal of Freedom from the Dutch World War II Resistance Foundation. He was also a member of the International Council for the Human Rights Foundation. Wu died in April 2016 while vacationing in Honduras.

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