Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade against China's Crueltyby George Vecsey
In 1995, Chinese-born American citizen Harry Wu touched off an international incident when he was arrested in China for spying. As rumors swirled that Hillary Clinton's long-planned trip to Beijing depended on Wu's release, the world wondered: Who was this troublemaker? According to Wu, he is just one of thousands of "nameless, faceless people" who needlessly suffer and often die in the vast prison-labor system that is China's dirty little secreta secret that Wu has risked his life to reveal.
Now, Harry Wu takes us on a soul-searching odyssey as he traces his bold effort to reenter China and expose its atrocities. We join him on covert trips to labor camps and to the hospitals where organs of executed prisoners sell for top dollar, witness the emotionally wrenching pilgrimages to the graves of persecuted friends and family, and, finally, brave the long months before his arrest when he feared the Chinese government might once and for all make a martyr of their number one troublemaker.
It's not only the Communists who've had trouble with Harry Wu. When the self-professed troublemaker was arrested last summer while attempting to enter China on a muckraking human rights mission — which momentarily held up Hillary Clinton's plans to attend the Beijing Conference on Women — he soon discovered he wasn't much appreciated by the capitalist running dogs either. A group of Silicon Valley professionals calling themselves Concerned Citizens for Rational Relations With China complained that the inconvenient activist was "dictating" American foreign policy and getting in the way of their business dealings.
If nothing else, this suggests something about Harry Wu's capacity to disturb the peace — not with incendiary rhetoric or terrorist threats but simply by putting forth the troublesome truth about China's forced labor camps, the laogai. In two previous books, Wu has offered up a harrowing insider's account of life in the Chinese gulag. In Troublemaker, which tells the story of his various secret fact-finding missions to China, Wu shows just how extensive the gulag system is even today.
The Chinese government says that 10 million people have been sent to the laogai camps since 1949. Wu estimates the real number is five times that — and that as many as five million of those people have been political prisoners. According to Wu, such camps account for a significant portion of the $30 billion worth of Chinese imports to the U.S., a fact that embarrasses the Chinese government and its business partners in this country.
As Wu cogently argues, the laogai system is effectively subsidized by Western acquiescence in Chinese abuses, "subsidized by corporations, subsidized by the World Bank, subsidized by all the governments that encourage trade with China." We're all implicated, as Wu proves by tracing the path of artificial flowers from slave labor camps to Ben Franklin Retail Stores.
An important book, Troublemaker is by no means a great one. It is rambling, unfocused and distressingly slight in its documentation. Wu himself comes across as impulsive, self-absorbed, petty — indeed, something of a pest. But whatever his personal flaws, Wu has, at great risk to himself, brought some distinctly uncomfortable facts to the attention of the world. We could use more pests like him. Salon
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 8.24(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.72(d)
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