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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China dissident sets up US show on Tibet

April 13, 2009

Macao Daily
April 11, 2009

Prominent Chinese dissident Harry Wu, who has
mounted a new museum exhibition in the US capital
dedicated to Tibet, accepts that some people think of him as a traitor.

"Yes, I am. I am a traitor to the People's
Republic of China," Wu said inside his Laogai
Museum in Washington. "Because the People's
Republic of China was established by the communists."

The new exhibition gives a version of the
Himalayan region's history at odds with the official version from Beijing.

While China says it liberated Tibet, Wu's
exhibition depicts authorities destroying temples
and other religious heritage of the region and
setting up labor camps -- the exact number of
which, he said, is impossible to verify.

The exhibition, which runs until May 30, features
photographs and video footage taken secretly in
Tibet, either by Tibetans or their sympathizers.

One image shows stacks of lumber outside the new
Chambdo prison, with one unnamed inmate saying
conditions were worse than in Tibet's most notorious Drapchi prison.

"On the outside, it looks very modern and many of
the facilities are new. But inside it is very tough," the prisoner said.

He said that at least in Drapchi, "you can see
the sky and sometimes the mountains from the cells."

Wu, 72, is lucid and sprightly. In what he said
was 19 years inside China's labor camps -- or
"laogai" --  he said he was subjected to torture and near starvation.

The geologist said he was shipped off to 12
different laogai, where he was put to forced
labour in a bid to change his views. Wu had
criticized communism, in particular the Soviet
clampdown on Hungary's 1956 uprising.

He was freed in 1979 and later moved to the
United States, where he worked in a doughnut shop
to make ends meet before telling his story.

Eventually he found himself opening his own eyes to a new issue -- Tibet.

"I found that of the many different groups of
immigrants to the United States -- Mexicans,
Koreans, Chinese, Japanese or whatever -- you
always have some of them who commit some sort of
crimes and go to jail," he said.

"You don't find any Tibetans doing crime. And you
can easily make friends with them," he said.

Wu, raised to think that the Dalai Lama was a
feudal oppressor, later met the Tibetan spiritual
leader and has since developed views on Tibet
that go even beyond what the Dalai Lama advocates.

While the Dalai Lama says he is seeking only
greater autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule,
Beijing brands him a separatist and pressures
world leaders not to meet with the Nobel Peace laureate.

Wu firmly believes that Tibet should be independent.

He thumped the table passionately as he showed
his collection of Chinese government maps, which
mark ethnically Tibetan areas in a different color.

Wu said that Beijing's argument -- that Tibetans
for centuries accepted Chinese emperors' rule --
was no different from the British saying they
should still control India because they once colonized it.

"They have their own systems, they have their
culture, their religion, their military. They
have a government, they have tax. It is
independent -- totally different," Wu said.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and nine
years later crushed an uprising which led the Dalai Lama to flee into India.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the uprising last
month, China established a new holiday
celebrating "Serfs' Liberation Day," saying
Beijing freed Tibetans from a Buddhist theocracy
that enslaved all but the religious elite.

The Laogai Museum, whose main exhibit documents
China's labor camps, opened in November with the
support of a fund established by Jerry Yang, the
co-founder of Internet giant Yahoo.

Yang donated the money after Yahoo came under
fire for providing data to Chinese police helping them jail cyber-dissidents.

Wu said his museum attracted a steady flow of US
schoolchildren but that he hoped more Chinese
would visit -- he even sent an improbable
invitation to the Chinese embassy staff.

He believes that instead of trying to persuade
Chinese on Tibet, Tibetans can help the Chinese
by fighting the communist system.

"I've told the Dalai Lama -- we Chinese cannot
support you. You, the Tibetans, should support us," Wu said.

"Communist China is like a plate -- not made of
plastic, of paper, of metal but of china. If you
take away part of it, you can break the entire Chinese communist system."

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