Chinese dissident tears into communism, unfair labor practices

The University of Washington Student Newspaper Monday, December 4, 1995


Chinese dissident tears into communism, unfair labor practices Alysha Webb Daily Staff

When he was in college, he was sent to a mainland China prison for 19 years, doing forced labor just for criticizing government policy."This time freedom only took 66 days," said Harry Wu.Wu, a Chinese dissident who moved to the United States in 1985 and is now an American citizen, spoke Friday night in Kane Hall before a mostly non-UW crowd of about 400.The talk, sponsored in part by the UW Center for Labor Studies, was part of a nationwide tour sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union.The "66 days" Wu was referring to was the length of his most recent imprisonment. In June, Wu was arrested when he went back to China to continue gathering evidence against the government for unfair labor practices and human rights abuses.Although he was convicted of stealing state secrets, the Chinese government, under pressure from the U.S. government, later deported Wu to the United States.This was not the first time Wu returned to China. On an earlier visit, he secretly filmed prison labor practices for "60 Minutes."The first hour of Wu's speech was spent showing the "60 Minutes" segment and a BBC segment on the sale of prisoner organs for transplant.When he spoke, Wu criticized the Chinese prison labor system as a "direct offspring of the Soviet system."Calling the Chinese Communist government "liars," he urged American consumers not to buy "Made in China" products as a protest against prison labor practices.Earlier in the day, Wu participated in a protest at a Seattle Wal-Mart store. Friday night, he charged that many of Wal-Mart's "Made in China" products were probably made by prisoners, citing the products' low prices as proof."Cheap products means cheap labor; cheap labor means cheap life," Wu said.Although most of those attending agreed Wu's accusations against the Chinese government were founded, some were left confused about what Americans could do about it."It's kind of hard to get a clear message of what he was saying," UW law student Brian Schwarzwalder said.Schwarzwalder and his fellow law student Carol Juang both said it was hard to know what actions Americans could take toward reforming Chinese prison labor."Where do [prisoner-made products] end up on the shelf?" Schwarzwalder asked.Others felt Wu was too broad in his accusations.Art Huddleston, a 1976 UW graduate, came to hear Wu because of Huddleston's affiliation with the Inland Boatman's Union, Jobs for Justice and the Asia Pacific Americans Labor Alliance.Huddleston also had attended a rally against Boeing earlier in the day. Wu spoke at that rally."Today at the rally, I didn't like the talk of all communist countries being bad," Huddleston said. "It's too inflammatory."Nevertheless, Huddleston affirmed his support for Wu."You have to go for the basic bread-and-butter issues and not worry about how that message is conveyed," Huddleston said.

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