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Dissident Harry Wu to Give Speech


Harry Wu, a former political prisoner turned passionate spokesperson against China's communist government, will lend his voice to a heated debate sparked by Saturday's visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

On Saturday, Jiang will address a select portion of the Harvard community within the laquered confines of Sanders Theatre.

At 1 p.m. that day, Harry Wu will lead a demonstration in Harvard Yard amid throngs of protesters. His visit was organized by the Harvard Salient, the conservative political magazine.

In recent years, Wu has traveled widely to publicize what he calls the injustice and the cruelty of China's laogai--its prison-labor camp system.

Wu visited Harvard in February 1995, when he gave an address at the Kennedy School as part of the Seventh Annual Harvard Asian American Intercollegiate Conference. The visit was sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and the Asian American Association.

The protest is expected to be the largest and most widely publicized of Jiang's entire eight-day stay in the U.S.

In a 1996 interview with Pamela Burdman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Wu summarized his main goal--to make laogai "an English word."

Harry Wu was born Wu Hongda Feb. 8, 1937 in Shanghai. He attended the Beijing College of Geology and belonged to the young, vital intellectual movement of the '50s and spoke out against communism.

In 1960, Wu was branded as a "counterrevolutionary rightist" by the government because of his criticism of the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. He was sentenced to China's laogai.

After enduring what Wu says is comparable to the tortures of Nazi concentration camps for' years, he was freed with Deng Xioping's rise to power in 1979.

Wu immigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen. During the '80s, he taught and worked at the University of California at Berkeley and the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

In 1992, he founded the "Laogai foundation" and published a book on the injustices and cruelty of China's penal system titled: Laogai: the Chinese Gulag--the first of several works on the subject.

Wu successfully returned to China during the '90s on three occasions for investigations of the penal system. He worked with news organizations, including the BBC and "60 Minutes," before he was finally detained at China's western border with Kazakhstan in 1995 while attempting to make his fourth return trip.

After a 66-day detainment, Wu was released, but a 15-year prison sentence was pronounced before his departure in an attempt to prevent him from trying to return again.

Since his release, Wu has received awards and honors from various organizations across the world.

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