September 1, 2003 Monday

By: Kristin McAllister

DAYTON - A caravan of supporters of an American imprisoned in China for practicing and promoting the ancient art of Falun Gong stopped in Dayton on Sunday on their way from the West Coast to the nation's capital.

The group, including Santa Clara, Calif., resident Yeong Ching, fiancée of imprisoned American Charles Li of Menlo Park, Calif., gathered in front of the Dayton Federal Plaza to generate awareness of the "abuses and injustice" taking place against Li and practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditative and spiritual movement outlawed in China.

The group is seeking petition signatures during their cross-country rescue drive - which began Aug. 13 - to present to the State Department and Congress on Sept. 16.

"There is a lot of local community support," Ching said.

They have collected more than 600 signatures.

In Washington, Ching said she plans to ask American authorities to demand Li's unconditional release.

According to, an Internet site set up by supporters of Li and the Falun Gong movement, Li was arrested on Jan. 22 as he deplaned at the Guangzhou Airport in China. Ching said Li was rushed through a one-day trial and sentenced to three years in prison for intent to expose the human rights violations suffered by Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Ching said she and supporters of Li and Falun Gong are trying to expose the "persecution of many people" who are Falun Gong practitioners. Persecution, she said, ranges from beatings and sexual abuse, to torture and death.

"Lots of people are suffering," said Sunny Lu, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor attending Sunday's event. "There is torturing and persecution over this and it is simply a practice for the body and mind. It is meditation, that is all. It is to help people, not hurt anyone."

She said Falun Gong is an ancient art revived in 1992, now encompassing more than 80 million practitioners.

"Li tried to go and expose this persecution because the people are not given freedom of thought," Lu said. "They are not given any choice."

Lu said supporters are blacklisted and threats and intimidation tactics are made against people worldwide, including in the United States.

"Their apartments are broken into and they ransack the place, but nothing is taken except their address book," she said. "China communism is so fearful of the truth. They spread terrible rumors about Falun Gong followers, saying practitioners are evil and want to murder their family members."