It is with great sadness that the Laogai Research Foundation announces the passing of its founder, Harry Wu, who died in Honduras this morning at the age of 79. Mr. Wu was vacationing with friends when he passed away.
Harry Wu was a Catholic and a well-known presence on Capitol Hill for his defense of people who suffered in China’s brutal Laogai camps. The Laogai are China’s forced prison labor camps that began under Mao and continue in China today.
While a college student, Mr. Wu was sentenced to 19 years in China’s Laogai after being labeled a counter-revolutionary for speaking out against the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary.
Harry Wu was released in 1979 and came to the United States in 1985 with just $40 in his pocket. Since then, he traveled back to China multiple times to further investigate Laogai camps and promote human rights developments in China. Mr. Wu founded the Laogai Research Foundation in 1992 to gather information and raise public awareness of the Chinese Laogai.
In 1995, Chinese authorities arrested and charged Mr. Wu, then a US citizen, with "stealing state secrets" in retaliation for his efforts to expose human rights abuses in China, among them his participation in a CBS 60 Minutes segment documenting China's vast labor camp system. A Chinese court subsequently sentenced him to another 15 years in prison. Due to the tireless efforts of US politicians, human rights activists, and diplomats, Chinese authorities deported Wu just prior to the beginning of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which Hillary Clinton attended in 1995.
Harry Wu was the author of many books including “The Chinese Gulag”, “Bitter Winds”, and “Troublemaker.” He dedicated his book “Troublemaker” “To the Chinese people who have suffered, who have left, who have stayed; someday soon, no more Laogai.”
Harry Wu spoke out for international labor rights and religious freedom, and against the death penalty, forced organ harvesting, and China’s brutal one-child policy. Harry Wu was a great supporter of the Dalai Lama, a Free Tibet, and 2010 Nobel Prize Honoree Liu Xiaobo.
In 2008, Harry Wu opened the first Laogai Museum in Washington, DC. Mr. Wu was the recipient of many international awards and honors.
Harry Wu is survived by his son, Harrison, and his former wife, Ching Lee. He was beloved by many.