Article Last Updated: Friday, August 15, 2003 - 6:12:32 AM PST

The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- The foot of the Humboldt County Courthouse stairs was the site of a rescue drive to make people aware and ask for their support in returning American citizens detained in China for practicing Falun Gong.

Friends and family of Dr. Charles Lee are on a month-long campaign across the country getting politician's signatures and handing out literature on Lee who has been detained in China more than six months.

"The situation is very urgent," said Sherry Zhang, one of the campaign's coordinators.

Zhang said the signatures will be sent to the U.S. State Department to help pressure it into assisting with the return of Lee.

Lee went to China to try to use Chinese media to battle the communist government's ban on the ancient Chinese practice of Falun Gong.

"Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese self-cultivation practice that improves mental and physical wellness through a series of easy to learn exercises," stated one Falun Gong pamphlet.

The practice is not sanctioned by the Chinese government, therefore it's illegal.

Lee, an American citizen from Menlo Park, has stated to the United States consulate that he has been tortured and force fed, even though the Chinese government said he's being treated humanely, according to Zhang.

Andy Ellsmore of Arcata was also in attendance Thursday. Ellsmore was arrested and deported from China last year for holding up a sign showing his support of Falun Gong.

The campaign will head north to Seattle before moving to the East Coast.

More information on the rescue drive and Lee can be found at .,1413,127%257E2896%257E1572385,00.