Washington, D.C. – April 8, 2011
On April 7th, Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) hosted the grand opening of its fully renovated Laogai Museum at the Foundation’s new offices near Dupont Circle.
First established in 2008 by Laogai survivor Harry Wu, the Laogai Museum was the first museum to directly address human rights in China, and more specifically, to expose the Laogai- China’s vast system of brutal forced labor prison camps. Through the continued support of the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund, LRF staff have collaborated with professional design and construction teams to not only give the museum a brand new look, but also delve deeper into the Laogai Archives and tell the full story of China’s labor camps and its countless victims. Some of the items on display include the belongings of former prisoners, classified government documents about the Laogai, an array of forced labor products, and personal testimonials. Mr. Wu himself obtained much of the content when he smuggled back into China in the 1990’s to investigate the prison camp system.
The museum opened its doors at 6:00 p.m. Thursday and the opening ceremony, presided over by Executive Director Harry Wu, convened at 6:30 p.m. Principal at Design Minds, Michael Lesperance, shared his firm’s experience designing Holocaust exhibits and how it influenced their work on the Laogai Museum. Ms. Annette Lantos, Chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice and wife of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, spoke of her impressions from fighting for human rights and praised the Laogai Museum opening as a great achievement for Mr. Wu.
Laogai survivors Qi Jiazhen and Liu Xinhu also shared their stories. Ms. Qi was imprisoned for 13 years simply on the alleged accusation that she attempted to flee China for western countries. In fact, she was only trying to study abroad and realize her dream of becoming a Chinese Madame Curie. As a result of her case, her father, a former official of the KMT government was also put in prison. Mr. Liu was thrown into the Laogai camp in 1959 at the age of 14. The son of a counterrevolutionary family, he too was deemed a rightist. He remained in prison for 25 years and was never permitted to visit his father, also a Laogai prisoner, until one day when his father committed suicide and Liu was summoned to gather his belongings.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) shared with the audience he and Mr. Wu’s never-ending battle in Congress to fight China’s numerous abuses- the atrocities of the ‘One Child Policy’, obstacles to religious freedom, and the government’s relentless detentions of those who dare speak out in the name of democracy and rights- and lauded Mr. Wu’s dedication to the cause. Mr. Wu closed the ceremony thanking his supporters and staff for making the new Laogai Museum a reality and expressed his hope that it would help to make the voices of the Laogai heard.
The museum will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Laogai Research Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded by former political prisoner Harry Wu in 1992. Its mission is to gather information on and raise public awareness of the Laogai-China's extensive system of forced labor prison camps.