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Harry Wu

December 22, 1996

It is easy enough for academics, China experts and even those who have come to the United States since Tienanmen--but without having spent 19 years in laogai--to criticize Harry Wu for being radical ("Harry's War," by Sarah Henry, Nov. 17).

These critics are people who did not lose their health or limbs or see their friends starve to death (my cousin, a young doctor fresh out of medical school, saw three classmates die), who did not sew shoes in dimly lit, freezing prisons or plant rice in thick muck with sores on their legs (as my sister did), who did not tend cows while wearing rags and no shoes (as my 90-year-old aunt, the head of a nursing school, did for years), who did not see their loved ones commit suicide when they could no longer stand the endless harassment (another cousin, now 93, found her husband dead). Ask millions of people like them what they think of Wu.

It is understandable that those with financial interests in China would want to mute voices of protest. Those who spell their anglicized names with X's, Q's and Zh's and are living in America in comfort and without fear have no right to criticize Wu.

Raymond L. Chuan

Hanalei, Hawaii

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I resent Lester Lee speaking for me, a Chinese American.

When Lee describes Harry Wu as a traitor, does he mean that he considers Wu a traitor to the communist ideology that uses the laogai as a means of control and as an instrument of profit? When Wu showed the world photographs of laogai prisoners soaked in leather tanning fluid, he proved conclusively that laogai products have been and are now being sold worldwide.

If Lee thinks that it's OK for a government to have imposed an 11-year prison sentence on Wang Dan, the student leader at Tienanmen Square, for the treasonous act of taking a correspondence course from UC Berkeley, that's one thing. But I wish he would just speak for himself. I happen to believe that human rights apply not just to Chinese Americans but to all human beings.

Ann Lau

Los Angeles

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Wu would not have landed in jail if he had kept his place and his mouth shut. He is spending the rest of his life trying to get even, no matter what the method or means.

Kam H. Leung

San Marino

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Henry did her best to stay on the fence, and by doing so, she did a grave disservice to Wu and his valuable work on human rights in China. Yes, Wu is one of the world's premier human rights activists, and yes, he is a meddling troublemaker who's gumming up U.S.-China trade policies. Wu is where he should be, doing what needs to be done.

Unfortunately, Henry's article could leave the impression that Wu's campaign is outdated and irrelevant. Knowing that human-rights abuses in China are still prevalent, I find her fence-sitting misleading. While some may say Wu's political tactics are self-serving, they should keep in mind that he is the most visible and recognizable of many activists who work tirelessly on behalf of those in China who are unable to speak out.

It is outrageous that we continue to expand our trade with a country that refuses to acknowledge basic human rights. It is unconscionable that we still turn a blind eye to the practices of the Chinese government while opening our doors to its products, no matter how dubious its sources of labor are. And even if conditions were improving there and the exports produced under the best of conditions, there is still the issue of China's illegal occupation of Tibet.

Lyra Rider

Los Angeles

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