Sep. 26, 2012: Harry Wu, the founder and executive director of the Laogai Research Foundation, has just concluded a successful trip to Switzerland and Germany. Issues involving labor camps in China and Tibetan struggle for freedom were prominent at various meetings and press conferences which he attended in Geneva, Berne, Zurich and Berlin.
During the first leg of that trip from September 9-13, Mr. Wu was invited by a Swiss-based, loosely coordinated group called China Platform to speak out about the human rights conditions in general and forced labor in particular ahead of the Swiss government’s reaching a free trade deal with the Chinese government. The constituent organizations of China Platform are Swiss Alliance of Development Organizations, Berne Declaration, Society for Threatened Peoples, Swiss Tibetan Friendship Society and Solidar Suisse.
Mr. Wu met with representatives from the Swiss civil society as well as government officials, such as members of the Swiss National Council and the Council of States of Switzerland, and officials at Federal Department of Economic Affairs and Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. At those meetings, Mr. Wu expressed his concern that human rights concerns such as force labor issues might be neglected or set aside in the process of the Swiss government’s negotiations with its Chinese counterpart to reach a free trade agreement, the first of its kind in Europe and the Western world. Of particular concern to Mr. Wu was that the prospect that the Swiss government might set a bad example for Europe and the West in its dealings with the Chinese Communist regime, where legitimate human rights causes are drowned in the sea of ambiguous but penetrating commercial interests.
As Geneva is the site of the European headquarters of the UN, Mr. Wu had also chances to meet with UN officials, for example, staff at the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and spoke at a side event at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council. On those occasions, a broader range of issues were brought up and discussed by My Wu, such as unchecked practices of death penalty and accompanying organ harvesting, mandatory family planning and forced abortion, the freedom of the Tibetan people and freedom of speech.
Complementing the Swiss trip was the German leg, where Mr. Wu was received in Berlin by the leading NGOs in Germany, Tibetan Initiative Deutschland and International Campaign for Tibet, Berlin Branch. At meetings with both the Human Rights Committee and Tibet Discussion Group at the German Bundestag, Mr. Wu asked those German politicians to continue their pressure on the Chinese government to redress the severe human rights abuses now taking place in the Tibetan area within China.
In both Switzerland and Germany, Mr. Wu briefed journalists on the human rights situation in China and called attention to the Tibetan struggle for freedom. He was interviewed by a leading local newspaper in Geneva and was also profiled in the publications of a German NGO.