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Pelosi: We Once Again Call on Beijing to Release the Prisoners In Laogai

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi: We Once Again Call on Beijing to Release the Prisoners In Laogai

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning at the Laogai Research Foundation conference on U.S.-China foreign relations and the human right situation in China. Below are her remarks:

"It is an honor to join my good friend, Harry Wu, and the distinguished presenters here today, to speak about human rights and the Laogai prison system in China.

"Harry Wu is a source of inspiration for me and others in Congress who care about freedom and democracy in China. He knows the personal costs of a fight against tyranny. He spent 19 years in Chinese prison camps for speaking out about the Soviet invasion of Hungary and criticizing the policies of the Chinese government. In the Laogai, he endured a world of grinding labor, systematic starvation, and torture.

"Today, Harry Wu is a voice of witness and memory, compelled from within to speak truth to power with the hope of finding justice. The Chinese government worries about Harry Wu because he is effective. He has testified numerous times before U.S Congressional committees, European Parliaments, and the United Nations. He is the author of three books, and he established the Laogai Research Foundation, recognized as one of the leading sources on Chinese forced labor camps.

"In 2003, Harry won a great victory by including the word ‘Laogai' into the Oxford English Dictionary. This is recognition of the Laogai's existence and the success in informing the public. Most of what the world knows about the Laogai is because of the work of Harry Wu. Thank you, Harry.

"The injustices chronicled by Harry Wu continue today. Every independent organization monitoring human rights believes that the situation in China has not significantly improved. It has been a quarter century since Deng Xiaoping opened the Chinese economy to the rest of the world. Since that time the United States has pursued a policy of trickle-down liberty - first economic freedom, and then political freedom will follow. The 17 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre expose this policy as the illusion it is.

"We know the Chinese government has become even more sophisticated, using new technology to monitor and apprehend those who criticize the regime or worship freely. Web service providers are required to censor important information and sadly, they are complying instead of using their leverage to push for change. Religious believers continue to be a target of the Chinese government; subjected to harassment, abuse and detention for practicing their faith. Chinese authorities require Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader and imprison individuals for simply owning pictures of the Dalai Lama.

"We know from the work of Harry Wu that forced labor remains an integral component of the Chinese prison system. It is used as a tool of political suppression of pro-democracy activists, religious believers, and Tibetan and Uyghur dissidents. Members of Congress continue to speak out about the conditions in the Laogai prison camps. Last year, I was proud to help introduce a resolution condemning the Laogai and the use of forced labor in China. In December, the resolution passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly. Harry Wu was an essential part of the effort.

"China has experienced tremendous economic growth in the last decade and it is exerting new political influence across the globe. Bush Administration officials say they hope China will become a ‘responsible stakeholder' in world affairs. We should avoid wishful thinking about the intentions of the Chinese government.

"The record speaks for itself. In addition to the deplorable human rights conditions, we know that the Chinese government provides military technology to countries that threaten international security including Iran and North Korea; sells military equipment to the Sudanese Government that is responsible for genocide in Darfur; builds up its military and is acquiring more sophisticated weapons despite facing no threat from any other country; threatens Taiwan with a military attack if it exercises its democratic rights; and continues to manipulate its currency and violate its trade agreements on market access, intellectual property rights, and the use of prison labor.

"Certainly we need to engage China, but it should be sustainable engagement that enables us to sustain our values, sustain our economic growth, and sustain our national security. Harry Wu has spent years in prison. He understands that the United States must not act from fear of what the Chinese regime might do but from strength and confidence in our own sense of values.

"I anticipate that we will have a brilliant future with the Chinese people - economically, politically, diplomatically, culturally, in every way. But the Chinese government must enter into the modern world and respect the rights of its own people, as well as universal principles of human rights.

"Today, we once again call on Beijing to release the thousands of prisoners in Laogai labor camps whose only crime is to demand their basic human rights. We call on the Chinese government to open up the Laogai prison system to the United Nations or the International Red Cross so the world can see what really is going on.

"We have to push for change. I know I share the dream of Harry Wu and Chinese democracy activists in America, that one day the world's most populous nation can at last be called the world's largest democracy."

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