This week the SEGL community paused to honor the life of Harry Wu. Mr. Wu, whom the New York Times called “the éminence grise of Chinese dissidents,” died in an accident on Tuesday while traveling in Honduras. (You can read the Times‘ obituary here.) He was also a longtime SEGL guest speaker.
Mr. Wu was particularly well known to our AP Comparative Government and Politics students, who visited him at the DC-based Laogai Museum each semester. He also was a special guest speaker at our 2013 Homecoming/Family Weekend, where he presided over our annual Fishbowl Discussion. And he helped inspire our Fall 2012 capstone policy document on the Laogai prison system (you can read about and download that report here).
Mr. Wu also played an important role in another SEGL case study: we hear his name each semester and summer when Lissa Muscatine, Hillary Clinton’s longtime top speechwriter, comes to speak. Muscatine is perhaps most famous for authoring Clinton’s 1995 “women’s rights are human rights” keynote speech to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women. Clinton refused to travel to the conference until Mr. Wu, who had just been captured and accused of spying by the Chinese government, was released. Eventually, Wu was freed, and the rest is history. (To read a contemporary article about the incident, click here.)
As news of Mr. Wu’s death became public, SEGL graduates and teachers shared tributes to him online. “Harry Wu is a legend in human rights circles, and we were honored each time he took time to share his experiences and views with our students. We will miss and remember him, and I am confident that our students will carry forward a piece of him in their future work.”