March 25, 2003

Danielle Wang, a civil engineering junior, is gathering support from UT and Austin-based Falun Gong practitioners in an effort to help release U.S. citizen Charles Li from a Chinese prison.

Li was sentenced to three years in a Chinese prison on charges of sabotage last Friday, but some suspect the real reason for his detainment is his practice of Falun Gong.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is the practice of meditation and exercises with three main principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin banned the practice from China in 1999 after it became widely popular, and since then human-rights organizations have reported thousands of cases of torture and executions of practitioners.

"Every day, I see people suffer, including my family and my best friends," said Wang, whose own father was put into prison five years ago for practicing Falun Gong.

Li went to China on Jan. 22 to celebrate the Chinese New Year with his family and to announce his engagement to his fiancee, Yeong-ching Foo. But as soon as he arrived at the Chinese airport, he was arrested and accused of sabotage.

During the last few months, Yeong-ching has gathered support from U.S. government officials and Falun Gong practitioners, including UT students.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., gathered signatures from 83 members of Congress in February to ask the Chinese government for Li's safe return.

Eshoo wrote the Chinese embassy requesting they "do everything possible to ensure Mr. Li's safety and effect his immediate release."

Wang said she understands Yeong-ching's pain.

"I thought [Falun Gong persecution] only occurred in China, but the case against Charles shows it's worldwide," Wang said.


Falun Gong practitioners remain optimistic that they can secure Li's release.

"As long as our hearts support the truth, it will come out," Wang said.