Chronicle Washington Bureau: Democrats demand China free Li

Eshoo leads 82 from House urging release of Menlo Park man [under false charge]

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Washington -- Eighty-two members of Congress, led by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, have asked the Chinese government for the immediate release of Charles Li, a Menlo Park man China suspects of sabotage but who the American officials say is being persecuted because he is a Falun Gong follower.

The members sent a letter dated Thursday to Yang Jiechi, China's ambassador to the United States. "We respectfully and urgently ask that you do everything possible to ensure Mr. Li's safety and effect his immediate release," said the letter, which was signed by a bipartisan group of members.

Li was detained two days after he arrived at the Guangdong airport in southern China on Jan. 22. Chinese officials say he was arrested in China on suspicion of sabotaging radio and television broadcasting systems.

Members of Falun Gong, a meditation-exercise movement that the Chinese government banned in 1999, have also protested outside the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to demand Li's release.

Falun Gong members in China have carried on protests since their group was banned. The movement alleges that more than 100,000 members have been arrested and are reportedly held either in labor camps or mental hospitals where authorities try to "cure" them and get them to renounce [their beliefs].

[…] Li, 37, became an American citizen last year and was traveling back to China to visit relatives for the Lunar New Year holiday when he was seized.

"We are extremely concerned about the religious persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China who have been detained and tortured because of their beliefs," the group from Congress said in their letter.


Li, who operates a Chinese herbal medicine business in Menlo Park, is being held in Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, some 1,000 miles away from where he was arrested. The charges he faces carry a prison term of up to 15 years.

Adam Leining of Mountain View, a Falun Gong practitioner and Li's friend, said Li had no knowledge of electronics. "He doesn't have the technical ability to take over satellites or a broadcasting facility," said Leining,

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