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March 2009

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Chinese human rights activist to speak on campus

Harry Wu will deliver a lecture on universal human rights next month as part of the Great Decisions series sponsored by the college and the Foreign Policy Association of America.

Founder and executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation, Wu actively works to put an end to the laogai system, which arbitrarily strips Chinese citizens of their freedom. Laogai is the Chinese expression for reform through labor. Under the laogai system in the People’s Republic of China, political dissidents and penal criminals can be detained, Wu says. These prisoners become a source of cheap labor for the communist regime through the system, which aims to “reform” dissidents through hard labor and political indoctrination.

Wu himself was imprisoned, accused of being a “rightist,” at the age of 23. He spent 19 years in 12 different laogai prison camps where he survived both physical and psychological torture, before emigrating to the United States in 1985. 

After making several trips back to China to document and expose the laogai system, Wu was deemed one of China’s top public enemies. He continues to speak out against pressing issues such as China’s “One Child Policy,” organ harvesting of executed laogai prisoners and forced labor-made goods.

Wu often testifies on Capitol Hill about China’s latest human rights abuses. At a U.S. congressional hearing in late January, he expressed hope that human rights will be a priority in the Obama administration.

Great Decisions is a lecture series presented across the United States that speaks to world topics currently in the news. The St. Norbert campus is one of only two sites in Wisconsin where the entire series is offered. Wu speaks April 1.

Lectures are held Wednesdays, February through April. All lectures are held in Fort Howard Theater and are open to the public. For more information visit

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