Feb 26, 2003

Valentine's Day would have been a sweet day for my friends Yeong-ching Foo and Charles Li since they were recently engaged. But something happened to Charles, and now Yeong-ching is heartbroken.

Yeong-ching is a software engineer and a graduate of the University of California-Davis. She spent this year's Valentine's Day without her fianc?Charles because he is thousands of miles away in a Chinese detention center.

Li, whose Chinese name Xiangchun means auspicious spring and whose birthday falls on the second day of the Spring Festival of the Lunar Chinese New Year, is a U.S. citizen and lives in Menlo Park, California. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s and was employed at Harvard University as a medical researcher before going into the business of importing and exporting Chinese traditional medicine. He wanted to give his elderly parents the best gift for the Spring Festival by going home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with them. But he never made it.

Charles was arrested immediately after he landed in China's Guangzhou airport on January 22 and was then transferred approximately 1,000 miles away to Yangzhou Detention Center in Jiangsu Province. Two days later, Chinese authorities officially notified the U.S. consulate in Shanghai that Charles will be formally charged.

Yeong-ching knows that her sweetheart is innocent. Charles has done nothing wrong. No matter what hyperbole will be offered by the Chinese authority in response to inquiries made concerning Charles, the simple fact is that he was arrested, detained, and now faces the possibility of spending the next 15 years in prison simply because of he is a practitioner of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice based on universal principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance" that has attracted over 100 million people in more than 60 countries since its public introduction in May, 1992, by its founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi.

Chinese authority, concerned that the peaceful practice was making significant inroads, outlawed Falun Gong in July, 1999, and launched a brutal persecution of Falun Gong and its practitioners. Since then, China has systematically attempted to eradicate the practice and those who follow it by reeducation through forced labor, torture, psychiatric incarceration reminiscent of the discredited practices of the former Soviet Union, and murder. As of February 10, 2003, more than 570 practitioners have been verified as being tortured to death. However, according to internal government statistics, the actual death toll had reached 1,600 by the end of 2001.

Yeong-ching and I have enough reasons to fear for Charles' well being and safety. But we know that we simply cannot let the fear intimidate us.

I wrote to the Secretary of State Colin Powell and asked him to do everything possible within his power to demand and secure an immediate and unconditional release of Charles; I called my congressperson and senators and asked them to co-sponsor a letter from Charles' Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to the ambassador of the People's Republic of China. I also faxed my request to the U.S. Ambassador to China, Mr. Clark Randt in Beijing (86-10-6532-6929). And I called President Bush and Mr. Cheney at (202) 456-1111.

I know that these letters and phone calls, along with other rescue efforts carried out by our friends, will make a difference.

Nancy Chen, an Australian Falun Gong practitioner who is also a friend of mine, was kidnapped by the Chinese National Security Department in Chengdu, China on the same day of Charles' arrest. She was released eight days later on January 30 as a result of the tremendous rescue effort put forth by her family and friends, the local and international communities, and the media. Most notably, the elected government officials and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Australia played a key role in securing Nancy's release.

Your voice counts, too. You can make the same phone calls and help my friend.