September 2, 2003

By Joe Miller, Rocky Mount Telegram

A group is touring the Carolinas to try to get a U.S. citizen released from a Chinese prison.

The "Coast-to-Coast Rescue Drive" group stopped at Rocky Mount City Hall on Tuesday to raise awareness about the plight of California native Dr. Charles Li. Li is a practitioner of Falun Gong, which is the art of refining a person's mind and body through exercise and meditation.

Falun Gong practitioner Xiandong Ni said his group wants to gather as much support for Li as possible.

"Our purpose is to rescue our citizen, Dr. Charles Li," Ni said.

The Friends of Falun Gong Web site said Chinese police arrested Li in January "for planning to interrupt state-owned TV signals with truthful information about the Chinese government's crackdown against Falun Gong." Li was sentenced in a Chinese court to three years in prison in March.

"The Chinese government, they don't allow him to do this kind of thing," Ni said. "The Chinese government is persecuting all of the Falun Gong practitioners."

China banned Falun Gong in 1999, [...].

Ni said police have beat Li in jail. Li's supporters also accuse China of force-feeding Li after he began a hunger strike.

Ni said his group is asking the public to sign a banner they plan to deliver to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ni said before coming to Rocky Mount, he believes his group has gotten about 400 signatures.

Before going to Washington, D.C., the group will have visited several North Carolina cities, including Raleigh, Goldsboro and Charlotte. Other groups are conducting similar efforts in other parts of the United States.

"We will bring this banner to our government to ask our government to pressure the Chinese government to release (Li)," Ni said.