After languishing 19 years in China‘s forced labour camps, a Chinese dissident has set up a museum in Washington to highlight the “horrors and atrocities” in these secret detention facilities.
Harry Wu, who labored in 12 different camps in China from 1960 to 1979, set up the museum in memory of the millions who he said perished within the camps, known as “Laogai” or reform-through-labor camps.
by P. Parameswaran, AFP
Wu hopes it “will preserve the memory of the Laogai’s many victims, including the millions who perished within the labor camps, and serve to educate the public about the horrors and atrocities committed by China’s communist regime,” a statement from his Laogai Research Foundation said.
A 1995 photo shows US human rights activist Harry Wu (C), standing between two Chinese policeman taken from a video offered for sale to foreign news agencies. After languishing 19 years in China’s forced labour camps, a Chinese dissident has set up a museum in Washington to highlight the “horrors and atrocities” in these secret detention facilities.(AFP/File)
“To this end, the museum will not only introduce the history and structure of the Laogai, but will also tell the personal stories of many of its prisoners,” it said.
Materials on display at the museum, to open to the public Thursday, include photographs, government documents and prisoner uniforms from Wu’s own archives or donated by other Laogai survivors.
Wu set up his foundation in 1992, seven years after he fled to the United States where he obtained American citizenship.
The Laogai camps were establishd under China’s former leader Mao Zedong after the communists came to power in China in 1949. They included both common criminals and political prisoners.
About 40-50 million people have been imprisoned in the Laogai, many of them prisoners of conscience, Wu’s group said.
In 1990, China abandoned the term Laogai and labelled the detention facilities as “prisons” instead but Wu maintained that evidence gathered by his foundation suggested that forced labor was “as much a part of its prison system today as it ever was.”