Leading Chinese dissident Harry Wu is poised to open America’s first museum that is solely about human rights violations in China. Located in Washington DC, it will be called the Laogai Museum because it will focus above all on the laogai, the network of re-education through work camps created by Mao Zedong.
Created with the support of the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund, the museum is meant to preserve the memory of the millions who died in the laogai and to educate the public about the horrors and atrocities committed by China’s Communist regime, Wu says.
It will not only show the history and structure of the laogai, but also the personal stories of many of its inmates, who were mostly prisoners of conscience. The items on display will include photographs, government documents, products manufactured by detainees and prisoner uniforms. For the most part they come from Wu’s own archives or were donated by other laogai survivors.
Wu will host the museum’s opening ceremony on 12 November with other laogai survivors.
Wu was sentenced to life imprisonment in the laogai in 1960, at the age of 23, for criticising the Communist Party and its support for the Soviet invasion of Hungary. He spent 19 years in 12 different labour camps until he was finally released in 1979, after Mao died and Deng Xiaoping rose to power.
Wu immigrated to the United States in 1985 and, in 1992, established the Laogai Research Foundation, an NGO whose chief goal is to gather and disseminate information about the labour camps.
Wu made several trips back to China, where he worked undercover to document the laogai. Arrested at the border as he tried to enter China in 1995, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “stealing state secrets.” He was released after 66 days as a result of an international outcry and strong pressure from many US politicians.
For more information see the Laogai Research Foundation’s site
Contact: Laogai Museum Planning Group
1109 M St. Nw, Washington, DC