U.S. Citizen Held in China for Practice of Falun Gong
Chinese Officials Formulate Charges That Could Mean Up To 15 Years in Prison
NEW YORK (FDI) — Charles Li, a U.S. Citizen from Menlo Park, California, was detained at Guangzhou Airport shortly after landing there on January 22, 2003. He was then transferred approximately 1,000 miles away to the Yangzhou Detention Center in Jiangsu Province.
Two days later, Chinese authorities officially notified the U.S. consulate in Shanghai, saying Charles will be charged with sabotaging T.V. and/or radio equipment — a charge that, according to a U.S. official in Shanghai, could mean up to 15 years in prison.
Charles denied the charges when talking with a U.S. consulate official yesterday. He told the U.S. official that he believes Chinese officials are treating him like a political prisoner because he practices Falun Gong.
“An innocent American has been illegally arrested and threatened with false charges that could lead to 15 years in prison, simply because he practices Falun Gong,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman, Erping Zhang. “This is outrageous… Charles must be released immediately. We urge the U.S. government and the American people to help rescue Charles from China.”
Fair Legal Proceedings Unlikely for American
A U.S. official was granted a 30 minute meeting with Charles yesterday, and was told she would only be allowed one 30 minute meeting per month.
The U.S. official said she provided Charles with a list of attorneys during the brief meeting. Legal representation and a fair trial, however, have officially been denied to practitioners of Falun Gong in the past.
According to an August 24, 1999 AFP report: “The Chinese Government has ordered Chinese lawyers not to plead for Falun Gong practitioners. This order comes from the notices of Bureau of Justice to attorney offices in major cities.”
In 2001, sources in China indicate that the Bureau changed its strategy slightly: Instead of out-right denial of legal representation, lawyers are required to “strictly stay in accordance with the tone of the Central Government” and are “appointed” to represent Falun Gong practitioners in court.
Without any legal procedure or with show trials of “legal proceedings,” since July 1999, over 100,000 Chinese Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to forced labor camps and prisons where they regularly face torture and “brainwashing classes.” The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of 560 deaths (sources), while government officials inside China report that the actual death toll is well over 1,600. Some expert sources estimate that figure to be much higher.
Foreign Nationals Targeted: A New Trend?
In a separate case, Nancy Chan, an Australian citizen, was detained by Chinese officials in Chengdu also on January 22, 2003.
“This is an alarming escalation to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners,” comments Mr. Zhang. “In the last week, we’ve seen two foreign nationals held and face the potential of being slapped with trumped up charges simply because they practice Falun Gong. Falun Gong is practiced in over 60 countries around the world…it seems no one from any of these countries is safe should they choose to travel to China.”
Jan Becker an Australian citizen and former Olympic swimmer for Australia, shares this concern. “What is a person to do if they practice Falun Gong, and they need to travel to China to do business or attend a conference or are competing in the 2008 Olympics?”
Ms. Becker concludes, “Jiang’s regime has done nothing less than target a segment of the world community for persecution. Regardless of race, nationality or age, you are in grave danger in China if you practice Falun Gong.”