Laogai-The Chinese Gulag Hardcover – May 1992
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From Library Journal
When Harry Wu's home videos of the Chinese gulag were shown on 60 Minutes last September, the American public first learned the dirty secret of China's extensive network of forced labor (laogai) camps. (Earlier, the human rights group Asia Watch showed that Chinese convict labor products were being illegally exported to the United States.) Wu, himself a laogai prisoner for 19 years, is an authentic voice from the vast silence of China's hidden empire. His spare, sober account is a well-documented analysis of the several thousand forced labor camps, where an estimated 16 to 20 million Chinese, perhaps ten percent of them political offenders, labor on prison farms, and in factories and workshops, in a harsh atmosphere permeated by sadism, torture, and malnutrition. The Chinese Communists obviously learned many lessons from their Soviet comrades, whose gulag Solzhenitsyn so brilliantly chronicled. This is a unique and valuable contribution to our understanding of post-1949 China.
- Steven I. Levine, Boulder Run Research, Hillsborough, N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Laogai are sweat shops writ large and they produce consumer goods for consumption in the West. Ironically, one Laogai produces some perfectly charming crucifixes that are widely purchased in the United States.
Harry Wu served his time and got out. Through a twist of fate, he came as a scholar to the United States, which was happy to receive him. He has spent the ensuing years inveighing against the Chinese system and his stated goal is to make the term "Laogai" as widely known as the term "Gulag". Wu has a ways to go to accomplish his task, but "Laogai" is indeed in several dictionaries and in several langauges (e.g., German) as well.
This is an important story, but it is a piece of political/historical writing that is difficult to get through. The story is chopped up into little pieces and scattered among seemingly endless maps and tables. I know this is an academic pieces, but still, that is no excuse for bad organization and bad writing.
I want to get his biography, "Bitter Years". I hear that is a decently rendered story. The book I am reviewing here is worthy, but I think that few will want to plow though the pages to get the message.