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August 15, 2016

Human-Rights Champion Gave Little to Help Dissidents From a Yahoo Fund

Harry Wu, a celebrated human-rights activist who spent nine years in Chinese Labor camps, granted little money to Chinese dissidents from a fund set up by tech giant Yahoo, reports The New York Times.

Mr. Wu, who came to the United States in 1985 and was a regular fixture on Capitol Hill, spent more than $13 million of the $17 million Yahoo Human Rights Fund on his Laogai Research Foundation, which has a website and runs a small museum, according to the Times, citing financial disclosures, court documents, and interviews with human-rights activists and Mr. Wu's foundation’s trustees and employees. Some of the money, which was supposed to aid people persecuted by the Chinese government, was used for real-estate transactions and to defend against lawsuits filed by grant applicants, aid recipients, and former employees, according to the Times.

Mr. Wu, who died in April at age 79, defended a decision he made to discontinue granting the fund’s money to Chinese dissidents and their families, saying that it was hard to verify information from applicants, adding that some of the victims of government persecution “lie to us.”

Yahoo dissolved the fund in 2015. The company created the fund after criticism it received for helping the Chinese government crack down on Yahoo subscribers who had written critically of the government. The company declined to respond to specific questions from the Times.