People's birth decisions are still controlled by the Communist Party, veteran of Laogai prison system says
Harry Wu is the founder and executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation, which seeks to document and expose the abuses of the prison system in the People’s Republic of China. A native of Shanghai, Wu spent 19 years in that system, the so-called Laogai, for criticizing the Communist Party.
He was released in 1979 and came to the US in 1985 but has traveled back to China multiple times to investigate Laogai camps and promote human rights. He was arrested on one of his trips there, in 1995, and charged with “stealing state secrets.” He holds that the arrest was in retaliation for his efforts to expose abuses and for participating in a CBS 60 Minutes segment documenting China’s labor camp system. A Chinese court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, but he was deported, due to the efforts of US politicians, human rights activists and diplomats.
Aleteia reached him on Friday in Washington, where Wu has relocated the Laogai Museum. We asked about his thoughts on China’s relaxation of its so-called one-child policy.
What do you think of China’s move to allow couples to have two children now, rather than only one?
It is a Communist Party decision. People always say in China the most powerful organization is the People’s Congress. Actually, it’s not. Just like in America, Democrats and Republicans make a decision for national policy. This is a Communist regime.
Number two, we do not know how many people in the past 30 years have been forced to have an abortion or sterilization. How do you control the one-child policy? Right now, they are facing a crisis. So you give people a break, let them have two children, whatever.
But the Chinese people do not enjoy the freedom of giving birth. It’s controlled by the Communist Party. They’re not free. So now the Communist Party says, “Okay, we’ll allow you two children.” Maybe one day they’ll say three children. It’s a very sad story.
Are you in touch with people in China regarding the enforcement of the policy, particularly the forced abortions and sterilizations? Has that situation gotten any better?
Everyone tries to have more children, but it’s illegal inside China. They have to run away, they have to escape, they have to quietly have abortions. If the government finds out, they will sterilize them or kill the child. There are many stories. The West doesn’t want to hear about it. People are not really concerned about human rights in China. They care about the economy, they care about investments, they care about products. That’s it.
The mainstream media have reported this week that even though the policy is being relaxed, many Chinese couples won’t be able to afford having more children anyway.
Well, this is a Chinese issue. This is the biggest population in the world, and it’s killing the child frequently, and nobody cares. … In China abortion is regular work. … It’s very common because it’s a Communist regime.
The decision made by the Chinese Communist Party Conference—not made by the People’s Congress—is like if in America something was not decided by Congress or the State Department but by the Republican Party of Democratic Party. We are quite used to it.
And we love to have business with them. [Chinese President] Xi Jinping was welcomed as a Communist leader; he was welcomed by [President Barack] Obama. What did Obama say? “We’re just talking about the South China Sea and the Internet. That’s it. We don’t want to talk about your domestic policy. We don’t want to get involved in it.” That means we don’t involve 22 percentof the population of the world. “They can do whatever they want to do.” Is that really American policy toward China?
Is the modification of the policy at least a step in the right direction?
You have to stop the Communists’ control. There is no country in the world where government controls human beings’ basic idea: you are not free to give birth. Even India [which has a population of 1.252 billion people]: they don’t have a policy to force people to [not] give birth. But China does. We ignore that. Obama ignored that. They don’t care about that. But if it’s a domestic policy, “Well, the Chinese can do whatever they want to.” But if you read the UN Charter on Human Rights, it’s very clear: giving birth is a fundamental right.
But we don’t care.
Many people are applauding: “Oh, China changed its policy and is allowing a second child.” I don’t know.
So you are skeptical.
I’m skeptical of the Communist regime. They have deprived not only freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of nationalities, but also freedom of birth. There is no religious freedom in China, including for the Catholic Church, the largest Church in the world. The Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is in jail. But today all Obama wants to talk to China about is Internet freedom. How has China, from 1995 until now, obtained entire control of the internet? Ask Cisco: “How did you help China set up its Internet system? How much money did you earn? How much computers and accessories did you sell to China.”
[Wu charges that Cisco worked with Communist Party public security officials to design a system known as the Golden Shield technology, to surveil and censor dissidents.]
Well, Cisco is a good international company. We love it. And communist China loves it too. Is any government from Obama to Bush to Clinton talking about this? Nobody.
And everybody says human rights is a basic idea in foreign policy. Well, that depends on which country. They talk about North Korea having a gulag. Wait a minute! China doesn’t have a gulag? Soviet experts were in China to set up the gulag system. Do Americans care about it? Not really. We love China because of the Great Wall, because it has great sightseeing, whatever. And it’s a big market. A big labor force can make the products. That’s it. …
It is possible that in the future China will change, but anyway, what is the principle of our foreign policy? What is our president doing?
John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.