Harry Wu, a former Chinese political prisoner and later a human rights activist, will discuss U.S.-China relations on Jan. 23 at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The speech, called “In the Mouth of the Dragon: U.S. and China Relations in the 21st Century,” is sponsored by the UofL Center for Asian Democracy.

Wu was a Chinese political prisoner for 19 years starting in 1960. He later came to the United States and founded the Washington, D.C.-based Laogai Research Foundation, which aims to raise awareness of China’s system of forced labor camps.

In 2009, London’s The Independent excerpted parts of Wu’s story from the book Nine Lives: Making the Impossible Possible. Wu writes that he was sent to a prison camp for expressing seemingly innocuous views at school that were contrary to Chinese policy.

In Chinese labour camps, there is no freedom, despite the camp slogan “Labour Makes a New Life”, similar to the words above the entry gates of German concentration camps: “Arbeit Macht Frei”. The last few years I was working in a coalmine, doing shifts of 12 hours a day. One time, after seeing a burial of fellow inmates, I thought: “Human life has no value here. It has no more importance than a cigarette ash flicked in the wind.”

Wu’s talk is free and open to the public, but U of L asks that people interested in attending register for tickets at 852-2667 or by e-mailing