Mon, Jun. 09, 2003

News in brief from the San Francisco Bay area

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Friends of a Menlo Park man incarcerated in a Chinese prison for aiding the [...] Falun Gong spiritual movement gathered in front of the Chinese consulate Monday to call attention to his plight.

Charles Lee, a naturalized American, is serving a three-year sentence following his conviction in March for sabotaging state-owned broadcast facilities in China. A letter his family received last week and believes was written by the 38-year-old doctor claims he has been beaten, deprived of sleep and kept in the same winter clothes since his Jan. 22 arrest, said Sherry Zhang, a friend of Lee's fiance.

"Even as a good friend of Charles', I was misled. I wanted to believe that because Charles is a U.S. citizen, he wouldn't be mistreated. But the document we received a couple of days ago completely contradicts that," Zhang said.

While Lee intended to hijack the Chinese airwaves to show videos protesting the government's ban on Falun Gong and was carrying the necessary equipment to do so when he was arrested, Zhang said he never carried out his plan. Even if he had, it wouldn't have damaged the cable and satellite facilities, she said.

"What we are seeing here is a hero because he put other people's interests above him, and he was trying to break this information blockade and save people's lives," Zhang said.

Falun Gong, which was banned in China in 1999, has attracted millions [...] Since then, thousands of followers have been detained, and scores are reported to have died in police custody from beatings or mistreatment.

The U.S. Embassy has said it is attempting to monitor Lee's case.