Aug. 19, 2006

Imprisoned for their spiritual beliefs. Tortured. And killed for their corneas, kidneys and other organs. As hard as it may be to believe, this is happening to Chinese followers of Falun Gong, said Cheng-Yuan "Corey" Lee, and it's time for the world to do something to stop it.

Friday afternoon, Lee -- along with three members of a Chinese family who have been granted asylum in the United States -- held a banner on South High Street, across from Akron City Hall. They hoped to draw attention to the Chinese government's treatment of Falun Gong, a mind-body-spirit discipline recognized by its slow, relaxing Tai-Chi-like movements.

"The Chinese communist government is very, very evil," said Song Zhang, who said he was a prisoner for 10 months because he practices Falun Gong and refused to give the government a list of other followers.

Lee and Zhang have taken their message to Toledo, Findlay, Lima, Canton, Mansfield and Youngstown. Other groups have held similar events throughout the country, as well as in Canada and Australia.

"People in the United States don't know what's going on in China," Lee said. "That's why we're out here."

The first goal is to raise awareness, said Lee, an assistant professor of education at The University of Findlay. After that, the hope is to spur change through international pressure. [...]

Lee and the other touring protest groups are playing up July report by David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, and David Kilgour, a former Canadian Parliament member.

The authors admitted that their findings were not ironclad proof to support the charges of organ harvesting. However, they said, "Based on what we now know, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that the allegations are true."

The pair was not permitted to visit the country to investigate the situation. Instead, they relied on the information of an ex-wife of a Chinese surgeon who may have harvested corneas from 2,000 people, who were then handed off to other surgeons to harvest other organs.

They also recorded phone calls with doctors in Chinese hospitals saying the organs are from Falun Gong members.

In one taped conversation, Matas -- posing as a patient awaiting transplant -- asks, "Does the person know that his organ will be removed?"

The doctor replies, "No."

The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in 1999.