TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Back home to a hero's welcome

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The Independent Culture
As Peking bids for the Olympic Games and, more importantly, Britain prepares to hand over Hong Kong, FIRST TUESDAY (10.40pm ITV) comes up with a timely reminder that China remains the world's greatest abuser of human rights. In 1960, a promising geology student called Harry Wu became just another of the estimated 25 million Chinese to have disappeared into the Laogai, China's gulag of some 2,000 forced labour camps. His crime was to publicly criticise the Maoist regime (most of the 10,000 pro-democracy supporters arrested after Tiananmen Square reside in these camps). Wu was released 19 years later and managed to escape to California, where he has made exposing the Laogai his life's work. In 1991, posing as tourists, Wu (now an American citizen) and his wife, Ching Lee, returned to China with a concealed camera, taking such dramatic risks as dressing up in police uniform to gain access to a huge prison farm on the edge of the Gobi desert. At another camp, guards spot Wu and beat him up, a dollars 200 back-hander securing his release. 'I'm not a hero,' he says, shedding tears for his missing 19 years, 'heroes don't survive the Laogai.'

(Photograph omitted)