Tribute to Harry Wu
By: Chen Duanzhao
Fifty-nine years ago since the “Anti-Rightist Movement,” a commemoration was held in the United States. At that conference in 2007 I was reacquainted with Wu Hongda (Harry Wu) after an absence of thirty-eight years. It was at that commemorative event, we shared our life experiences during our time apart. Looking back, I did not think this was actually a farewell meeting! Harry is now gone. I am infinitely wistful.
I still remember in 1954, I was studying at Beijing Normal University and he was at Beijing Geology Institute. We met playing baseball in the parks of Beijing, two energetic young people laughing and talking about ideals. In that year our minds were so simple.
Three years later in 1957, we both succumbed to unfortunate circumstances out of our control. Our respective schools classified us as “bourgeois rightists.” We would later be sentenced to punishment through labor, and then reeducation through labor, the path laid out by the Chinese Communist Party.
In 1962, we met again at Tuanhe labor camp, becoming “brothers-in-suffering.” It was a dramatic meeting. When our eyes met we simultaneously resounded, “You!” Together we accepted the thought reform of the Communist Party—“Teach and support! Bring us labor, starve us, torture us while brainwashing us!”
Wu was very clever and competent. In the camp he looked thin almost frail, but his optimistic spirit kept him in good health. Even in that dangerous environment, he won the praise of the third-level farm workers (the harder one worked, the more food one would receive). His experience in the rural fields during his university years proved beneficial. In October 1969, Wu’s prison sentence was lifted; he was sent to Wang Jincheng Coal Mine. Even though he was no longer a prisoner, he was still a captive politically labeled into forced job placement. This allowed him more freedom to move about the camp, but still unable to return home a free man.
I knew Harry Wu. He had the moral qualities of a youthful intellectual. He was decent, outspoken, smart and capable. I knew him when he was barely twenty-three years old. I had never heard him say anything to denigrate his home. In the 1950’s, the Communist Party built their party on a platform of “liberation”, defining a new culture. If there was resistance, students in the Party were unable to leave; the school administration nor the Party would let them escape.
I have recently heard after his death, people have spread rumors about him, slandered, vilified him, and sullied his name. These people are despicable! Whether by their own volition or a directive from their employers, the perpetrators have degraded their conscious.
The following was translated from the original Chinese written by a friend of Harry Wu and former political prisoner Chen Duanzhao.