September 10, 2003


The nationwide "rescue drive" that stopped Tuesday in Longview was a quiet demonstration of the beliefs that led to Dr. Charles Li's imprisonment in China.

Four of Li's supporters and fellow Falun Gong practitioners set up a display outside Longview City Hall, calling for help to win Li's release.

"This is a national rescue campaign," said Jason Wang of Houston. He was accompanied by three students from the Louisiana Tech University and the University of Texas at Arlington. They stood behind him, going through the five exercises of Falun Gong, moving slowly from one position to another, their eyes closed as they changed positions.

Falun Gong, which also is called Falun Dafa, is a Chinese spiritual discipline that includes exercise and meditation, according to a Web site about the practice. It originated in China in 1992 and has been outlawed there since 1999.

Wang provided information Tuesday that an estimated 100 million people practice Falun Gong in China. However, they do so under the threat of persecution by their government.

Since it was outlawed, about 800 people have been tortured to death in China for practicing it, Wang said. He said 100,000 people have been detained in forced labor camps, detention centers and mental hospitals for practicing Falun Gong, including his mother.

Li is an American citizen and Wang's friend, he said. Li went to China in January "with the intention to interrupt TV signals to broadcast the truth of Falun Gong, but he was detained 15 minutes after he arrived at Guangzhou airport," information from Wang said. He then was sentenced to three years in prison after a "show trial." Li is being beaten and tortured in prison, the information from Wang said.

"He is the first American citizen that suffers such this kind of illegal detention and torture," Wang said. "Previously, only Chinese people (have been) tortured and killed."

Wang and the students who are with him are part of several teams of Li's friends and family who are traveling around the country gathering signatures for a petition they hope will help free Li. The petition will be presented to American government officials on Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C., as part of a rally. The group also is asking members of the public to write letters to their congressmen about this issue.

Wang describe Li as a "hero," comparing his decision to go to China to the Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights work in America.

"We want to let more people know that Charles risked his life to bring the truth back to the Chinese people," Wang said.