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Deseret News: Chinese Student at U. is on a Quest to Free Friend

December 09, 2003 |   By Elaine Jarvik Deseret Morning News

December 7, 2003, Sunday

He can't sleep, has lost his appetite, is heart-broken -- his only hope now, says Sheng Mei, is that the kind people of Utah will write letters to their congressmen and to the Chinese embassy on behalf of the girlfriend he says was abducted by Chinese authorities.

Mei and his girlfriend, Li Qian, are practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that is currently followed by 100 million people, including 70 million in China, according to Falun Gong devotees. The Chinese government has outlawed Falun Gong, and there are reports of torture and deaths of practitioners in Chinese jails. It is this that worries Mei, who says that a witness saw his girlfriend being hauled off by Chinese police on Nov. 1, adding that her books, laptop and passport were stolen.

"She's a pretty girl and these police are animals," says Mei, who points to the gruesome stories compiled by the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group in its 2003 report about the government's "state terrorism against women and children."

"Reliable Chinese government sources say the true death toll is well into the thousands," says Mei. "More than 100,000 practitioners are known to have been arbitrarily detained in prisons and labor camps where they face brutal violence, medieval forms of torture, rape, injection of drugs and many other unimaginable methods designed to destroy them mentally and physically."

Falun Gong teaches truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, Mei says. At the heart of the practice is the cultivation of xinxing, or moral character.

The founder of Falun Gong, a Chinese man named Li Hongzhi, is now in exile in New York. According to Li, Falun Gong brings together ancient teachings combining elements of Buddhism, Tao and the energy exercises known as qi gong.

Mei is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in electrical engineering while Qian, 21, graduated from Nanjing University with a degree in business administration. Mei says that a U.S. company has petitioned for a professional working visa for Qian and that she moved to Shanghai while waiting for a decision from the INS. It was during this time that she disappeared, Mei says.

Mei, who has practiced Falun Gong for five years and has spoken about it publicly in the United States, believes that the Chinese National Security Bureau monitored his phone calls with Qian. Before her disappearance, the couple had talked every day for two or three hours, Mei says.

Mei's grandfather, Weiba Hu, taught mining engineering at the University of Utah in the 1940s. Mei himself moved to the United States in 1993. He will become a U.S. citizen on Nov. 26.

"I'm desperate and kind of hopeful," says Mei. "It depends on Utahns -- whether they're willing to step out for justice. Every voice counts."

He is hoping that "kind-hearted people" will read his story and write their elected representatives to voice their concern.

"I will be unhappy for the rest of my life if I can't get her out."