By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 12, 2001
Chinese dissident and human rights activist Harry Wu spoke at Monroe Hall at George Washington University on Wednesday night to discuss strained relations between United States and China following China’s release of 24 U.S. servicemen whose plane collided with a Chinese fighter plane over the South China Sea.
“Our money is saving this dying communist nation,” said Wu, to the filled lecture room. “Investing American money will not change China and will not bring democracy.”
Wu talked about his experiences in a Chinese labor camp and the nature of the American policy in the communist nation in the speech sponsored by GW’s Students for a Free Tibet.
“You cannot teach a tiger to become a vegetarian,” Wu said. “We cannot simply change the situation in China with money.”
He called the release of the 24-member air crew from Chinese imprisonment a temporary solution to a problem that is all-too-frequent in U.S.-China relations.
“This happens very frequently,” Wu said. “They can see American planes coming on the radar. This time they sent up their jets and crash.”
Numerous highly publicized incidents have complicated the U.S.-China relationship.
The Chinese government detained U.S. military fliers for more than a week. A recent bill introduced in Congress a few days into the crisis proposed to reverse an agreement signed by former President Bill Clinton to pave the way for normalized trade relations.
Tensions were also raised when Chinese officials jailed American University fellow Gao Zahn, accusing her of spying.
Wu said China was testing the Bush administration’s policy on China when it detained Zahn.
“Hundreds of scholars from the United States and Australia and other countries are qualified to be spies by the Chinese government,” Wu said.
In 1960 Wu, who now serves as the director of the Laogai Research Center, was arrested and spent 19 years in a labor camp for expressing his political views. He left China in 1985 and is now an American citizen.
“I was a skeleton in the camp. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t stand, I lay on my back and didn’t open my eyes to save my strength,” Wu said.
He described his arrival in San Francisco with less than $100 to his name.
“I worked in a doughnut shop for a time,” he said, smiling at the crowd. “The good thing about working in a doughnut shop is that you get free doughnuts.”
Despite his efforts to leave his experiences in the Chinese work camp behind him when he came to America, Wu said he was unable to let his fellow countrymen suffer.
“I could not turn my back to them,” he said.
Wu said American investments supporting the communist government repress the country’s people. He said that American businesses investing in Chinese businesses are directly supporting the Chinese government.
“Spending money in China will only further stabilize the communist government,” he said.
Almost 20 percent of the tax revenue for the Chinese government comes from foreign investment, Wu said.
“Imagine what would happen if they lost that money,” he said.
Wu, who spoke for an hour, answered questions from the audience.
He discussed the recent proposed sales of Kidd-class warships with advanced Aegis weapon systems to Taiwan, which also has turbulent relations with China.
“Weapons mean nothing for Tawain,” Wu said. “You have got to work to restrain your business in the country.
“In China these days you can buy many things, you can buy a hamburger and Michael Jordan is very popular,” Wu said. “But you cannot buy freedom.”
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