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Harry Wu was a pollitical prisoner of the Chinese Laogai system. He had criticised the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 when he was a geology student earning himself a one way ticket into the system ( he arrivied in 1960). Harry Wu spent19 years of suffering in 12 of China's different forced labor camps. In the camps Wu did things such as mining coal , building roads, clearing land, and planting and harvesting crops. According to his own accounts, he was beaten, tortured and nearly starved to death, and witnessed the deaths of many other prisoners from brutality, starvation, and suicide. After Wu emigrated to the United States in 1985 he couldnt get over the knowledge of what he had experienced first hand and decided to devote his life to making the Laogai System known far and wide. Wu was born in Shanghi
He came from a wealthy family; his father was a banker, and his mother was descended from landlords. During his teens the times got hard the goverment took over all the land in the country his family experienced money problems. Wu was first arrested in 1956 for criticizing the Communist Partyduring the brief period of liberalization in China known as the Hundred Flowers Campagin.Released in 1979 in the liberalization which followed the death of Mao Zedong, Wu left China and went to the United States, where he became a visiting professor of geology at the University of California. There he began writing about his experiences in China. In 1992 he resigned his academic post and became a human rights activist. He established the Laogai Research Fundation. The foundation is a non-profit orginazation which informs the public of the Laogai System. Wu received the Freedom Award from the Hungarian Freedom Fighters' Federation in 1991. In 1994 he received the first Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders . In 1996, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom from the Dutch World War II Resistance Foundation. He also received honorary degrees from St. Louis University and the American University of Paris in 1996. Wu is currently the Executive Director of the Laogai Research Foundation and the China Information Center. Both organizations are located in the Washington, DC area and are funded principally by the bi-partisan National Endowment for Democracy. He is also a member of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.
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