on July 18, 1995
"Bitter Winds" is at once fascinating and horrifying.I knew that China was (and still is) a scary placeto be on the wrong side of the government, but nothing can bring it home like a first-hand account. Harry Wu spent 19 years of his life in prison camps and forced labor camps all over China for crimes no more serious than speaking his mind too openly on a few occasions. He was forced to endure the most humiliating treatment imaginable under terrible conditions including near starvation during China's famines, where the prisoners had it even worse than the normal citizens. If you worry about the thought police, read this book and it will put your worries in perspective -- though certainly not to rest. Now that Wu is again incarcerated in China, where he was trying to gather more information on the forced labor system currently in operation, this book is that much more timely.
on June 24, 2001
Syndicated pundit Don Feder once referred to modern day China as "the reincarnation of the Third Reich with lo mien noodles." Harry Wu's autobiographical tome of the hellish conditions inside Chinese labor camps lends substantial credence to that caustic description. As tragic as the nightmare he endured is, the situation in modern China has in many ways has deteriorated even further. Harry Wu is one of many children; such a family would never be allowed under the current one-child policy. Actually, it is easy to see why a depraved and violent population controlling policy has been instituted. As the Wus demonstrate, the family is the hardest institution to destroy, and with large and strong families the norm, China's insensate government would be hampered in its drive for domination over all aspects of life.
More than a few of the horrors he documents have a frightening familiarity. Anyone familiar with the opinion-controlling practices currently at place Ivy League colleges will see an eerie counterpart to China's universities in the late 1950. Harry Wu writes of "the official encouragement of divergent opinions" as the nation transformed over to socialism. Like the modern diversity fad, the semantics did not match the policy. "Divergent opinions" yielded blind devotion to the Communist state, just as diversity training demands the surrender of individuality in favor of group labels and a collective mentality. Hostility to religion has become chic among the U.S. hoi polloi which also corresponds to China's ferociously enforced atheism. As a boy Harry Wu attended a Catholic School, but with little warning the nuns and priests were forcefully expelled from China. In another scary correlations, certain segments of American illuminati similarly disdain large families as impractical or burdensome upon women.
America's most admirable heroes are now under heavy fire from much of the elite establishment. Who hasn't heard George Washington denigrated as a slave owner or Abraham Lincoln as a racist who reluctantly freed the slaves? China also mastered the art of rewriting history. Wu discusses how Confucius was condemned as a reprobate because his teachings brilliantly controverted Communists doctrine.
The labor camp conditions he graphically describes are inhuman and heartbreaking. The fact that he even survived such brutality is astounding; his willingness to return to China and document the still thriving barbarism is nothing short of miraculous. Wu deserves much credit for that act of doughty selflessness.
As the Unites States Congress prepares to debate extending China's undeserved Trade Status, "Bitter Winds" should be read by every concerned American, and those issues should be raised with his or her congressman.
on October 9, 1998
Bitter Winds is Harry Wu's convincing story of his 19 years in the Red Chinese gulag, the government's slave labor camp system for political dissidents and common criminals. Committed without trial, charges or definite sentence, Harry survived years of senseless political indoctrination, forced labor, beatings, the brutality of fellow prisoners, cold, and starvation. His only crimes were his status as a member of the pre-revolutionary Chinese middle class and his candid criticism of the Communist Party done at the party's invitation. The difference between the terror suffered by Harry and the Stalinist death camps is that China's concentration camps continue to this day. Why didn't someone do something about the Nazi and Soviet camps? Why does the U.S. State Dept. ignore the Red Chinese murders occurring today? Today's leaders of China are undoubtedly proud of their camp system, patterned after that of their erstwhile ally Jos. Stalin, which was revealed in books like Victor Herman's Coming Out of the Ice and the recent account Man Is Wolf to Man.