(PROFILE) Fiery Wu claims China executes prisoners to sell
April 5, 1998
New York (dpa) - Human rights activist Harry Wu has made it
his life's work to expose the abuses he endured in China's gulag-style prison
camps and those still faced by thousands of other prisoners.
Wu went to a New York hotel, posed as a doctor and pretended to negotiate a
deal to buy human organs for transplant. The organs would be harvested from
executed prisoners from the gulag.
Unbeknown to the organ dealer, their
two hours of haggling about the prices and conditions of kidneys (20,000
dollars), corneas (5,000 dollars a pair) and livers (40,000 dollars) was
In March, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
arrested New York resident Wang Cheng Yong, 41, and his alleged partner, Fu
Xingqi, 35, on charges of conspiracy to sell human organs.
It was Wu's
masquerading as a Chinese doctor that facilitated the arrests. Two recordings
were made - one audio and one video - and these tapes, according to Wu,
document his long-standing charges.
Wu and human rights activists
believe China's government condemns citizens on petty charges and executes them
in order to sell their organs. Even the timing and method of execution is
believed to be tailored to the demand for certain organs.
When corneas are needed,
prisoners are shot in the chest. When livers are needed, they're shot in the
head, they claim.
"It could have been me,'' Wu said in a recent telephone interview
from his home in California. After surviving China's gulag, Wu became an
American citizen and a crusader for human rights in China.
But Wu is
not sitting back enjoying the victory of his recent success. He's back at work
criticizing China, defending his claims against those who call him a hothead
and exaggerator, and researching and writing books.
Wu, 61, was born to
wealthy parents in Shanghai. He attended private school, took music lessons and
had a childhood insulated from the political upheaval of the coming of
When he was to go off to college, Wu got labeled a public
enemy because of the privileges he enjoyed as a youth. Eventually he was thrown
in jail on charges of theft. He spent the next 19 years performing "reform
through labor'' in the Laogai, the Chinese gulag.
In his autobiography,
he describes the psychological abuse he faced.
"It's no longer the
fashion to bind a woman's feet, but they bind a person's thoughts instead...
That's why they arrested me,'' he says.
He vowed to use his life
purposefully to change society. The activist has become known around the world
for his blunt criticism of China.
Wu testified to the U.S. Congress in
1995 about the illegal trade in human body parts. And he has worked on
high-profile documentaries with ABC television, the 60 Minutes U.S. TV show and
the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Each time he has the microphone,
Wu takes the chance to blast China's human rights record, particularly on
After the New York court case is settled, Wu hopes to use the tapes
of the two organ dealers in his campaign against China.
``We must tell
people the truth. We have the footage that will cause people to question (the
practice),'' said Wu.
``They (the Chinese) are not only killing,
they're executing in public. The first step is to stop public executions. Then
we stop the trade in organs,'' he declared.
Beijing rejects his
allegations and even some human-rights activists dislike Wu's heated style.
A Human Rights Watch official who works closely with Wu declined
comment. But Wei Jingsheng, the leading Chinese democracy advocate who was
recently released from jail, was willing to discuss the controversy about Wu's
``Not everyone likes Harry. But we must forgive
him. The work he is doing is very important,'' said Wei, a human rights fellow
at Columbia University in New York.
Wei, who spent 17 years in a
Chinese prison, said Wu seems to talk to the public in the same defensive way
he must have talked to the provocative prison guards on the other side of the
A colleague of Wu, Jeff Fiedler, summed up Wu's motivation when
he said, ``He is a survivor. He wants the system ended and he wants the people
to know about those who suffer and continue to suffer.''
the assessment adding, ``I not only want to see freedom from the machine (the
gulag), I want to destroy it.''