Thursday, September 18, 2003

A small group of Falun Gong practitioners traveled to Westminster Wednesday afternoon, demonstrating their system of physical exercises as part of a nationwide campaign on behalf of an American citizen who is serving a three-year prison term in China.

The demonstration was in support of Dr. Charles "Chuck" Lee, a resident of Menlo Park, Ca., who was arrested in China this past January, and is being held in Nanjing prison, said Karen Hong, one of the event's organizers.

A group of Lee's supporters has been holding a series of rallies and demonstrations across the country, trying to raise public awareness about his situation, and gather signatures for a petition to which will eventually be presented to the U.S. State Department, she said. This particular group had been in Frederick and Hagerstown earlier, and planned to continue east, to Bowie and Annapolis, in coming days.

Lee's intent in returning to China earlier this year was to visit his parents and to help spread the word about the Chinese government's crackdown on practitioners of Falun Gong, Hong said.

Falun Gong is a form of meditation and exercise. Hong said it benefits practitioners' mind, body and spirit.


Lee was arrested this past January in China, where he was charged with sabotaging radio and television broadcast equipment, said Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Lee's supporters claim he was arrested as part of the Chinese government's crackdown on practitioners of Falun Gong.

He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, Shannon said.

Consular officials observed the trial, and have met or spoken on the phone with Lee 11 times in the past four months. The consulate is continuing to monitor his welfare while he remains in custody.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. said he had no information on Lee.