Born to a well-to-do family in Shanghai, Harry Wu never could have imagined as a child that he would become a prisoner at the hands of his own country. But, when the Communist Revolution occurred during his youth, Wu's life went from calm and stable to tumultuous, unpredictable, and perilous. It all began when Wu was studying at the Beijing College of Geology. He was leading the life of a normal student, but the Communist Party identified him as an enemy of the state for speaking at a meeting organized by the Communist branch at his university. All of those close to him were forced to publicly denounce Wu, and soon Wu decided he had to escape his country and this new, oppressive regime. When the government learned of his plans though, Wu was captured and sent to work in one of the laogai, which functioned as labor camps following the Communist Revolution. For nineteen years Wu endured unfathomable starvation, physical and psychological abuse, and deplorable living conditions. When he was freed, he took a job in the United States, but returned, or attempted to return, to China on multiple occasions in order to document what was happening there. For these efforts, Wu was place on the "Most Wanted" list in China and was eventually arrested and held captive in there again. Familiar with his story and his work, the United States intervened and launched a global campaign to free him, which succeeded after sixty-six terrifying days. Steadfast in his goal to expose the injustices taking place in China, Wu has continued his human rights campaigns since his second release. With the opening of the Laogai Museum in Washington D.C. in 2008, Wu achieved the long-time goal of having a place in the United States dedicated to documenting the human rights violations in China. His courageous and awe-inspiring story of survival is the subject of Wu's memoir, Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag.
"People must respect each other enough to live with one another but retain the right to free choice: to choose their religion, their culture. Under totalitarian regimes, people are never treated as human beings. There is no free choice. If you talk about individual rights, you are automatically opposing the government."