Article Last Updated: Wednesday, June 04, 2003

By Bret Putnam, STAFF WRITER

Charles Li, the Menlo Park physician who is being held in a Chinese jail for advocating the practice of Falun Gong, is reportedly a week into a hunger strike and has been force-fed by prison authorities, his fiancee said Tuesday.

Li, a 37-year-old American citizen, was arrested in January and charged with sabotaging television and radio broadcast systems. Chinese authorities said he had tried to broadcast Falun Gong propaganda. Li is serving a three-year sentence.

Li, a native of China's Jiangsu province who has been a Peninsula resident for three years, was on a trip to visit his parents when arrested. He operates an import-export business in medicinal herbs.

Li's fiancee, Yeong-Ching Foo, said she learned Monday from American consular officials in China that Li has been on a hunger strike since May 27, and was hospitalized at Nanjing Prison after being force-fed.

Li launched the hunger strike to protest his detention and the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners across China, said Sherry Zhang, a Bay Area Falun Gong spokesperson. Li has been beaten and mentally abused in prison, Zhang said.

"We thought he would be better off as a U.S. citizen," Foo said.

His case is unique Li's American citizenship makes his case unique, said Bob Berring, a professor at the University of California Berkeley's Boalt School of Law. China aggressively prosecutes Falun Gong practitioners, and they are making an example of Li, Berring said.

"If you were a Falun Gong practitioner from the U.S., wouldn't you think twice before going to China?" Berring said.

Li has penned a 96-page document relating his prison treatment and has given it to American consular officials based in Shanghai, Foo said. Ten pages were originally held up, but Li's hunger strike forced their release, Foo said.

"Charles wants this to be exposed so people know how evil the persecution is," Foo said.

The hunger strike is Li's second since his incarceration, Foo said. Li launched the first, a two-day strike, in mid-May.

On Tuesday, dozens of Falun Gong practitioners, including Foo, rallied outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. The protesters have been a daily phenomenon weekdays at the consulate for more than two years, Zhang said.

"We won't just passively let people be persecuted," Zhang said.

Banned in China

Suzheng Li (no relation to Charles), a 70-year-old native of southern China who has lived in San Francisco for three years, was among the protesters Tuesday. Li said her health had improved markedly since she started practicing Falun Gong five years ago. She also said she had been threatened by a security officer while practicing Falun Gong in a park in Guangzhou, capital of Guandong province, several years ago.

"In China, the persecution of Falun Gong is really brutal. People should have freedom of belief," Li said. "The government is not allowing that."

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that incorporates meditation and traditional Chinese breathing exercises. It has been banned in China since 1999. The movement was introduced in 1992, and by 1999 there were more than a 100 million practitioners in China, according to Chinese government statistics, Zhang said.

Fearing a broad-based movement not under the control of the Communist party, Former Chinese president and Communist Party chairman Jiang Zemin ordered a crackdown against Falun Gang practitioners in 1999.,1413,87~11268~1434413,00.html