FDI: Open Letter to the U.S. Government: Please Ensure Charles Lee's Health and Timely Return

NEW YORK (FDI) - The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai has notified individuals close to U.S. citizen Dr. Charles Lee that he is to be released and deported back to the United States on January 21st, following a three-year unlawful imprisonment in a Chinese prison. We welcome the news of Lee's upcoming return and wish to thank the individuals in the U.S. government and Shanghai Consulate who have worked on his case for their efforts thus far.

At the same time, past experience shows that Lee has entered a critical period and close attention must now be paid to his case. We cannot take for granted that he will be released as Chinese authorities promise, nor that he will be treated fairly.

The case of Zhao Ming, who had also been a prominent prisoner of conscience, is telling. Zhao was arrested for submitting a petition to the Chinese regime about the persecution of Falun Gong during his winter break from Ireland's Trinity College in December 1999. He was later administratively sentenced to one year in a labour camp. In spite of the international attention brought to his imprisonment, two days before Zhao's scheduled release his captors decided he was not sufficiently "reeducated" and arbitrarily extended his jail term by another ten months.

Student organisations in Ireland and around the world led a vigorous campaign for Zhao, and Irish politicians spoke out on his behalf. On January 4th, 2002, the Chinese Communist Party's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan promised Ireland's Foreign Minister Brian Cowen that Zhao would be released on March 12th, 2002, and would not be mistreated. Tang's words proved to be a lie.

Two weeks before his second release date, Zhao was brutally tortured. One evening five policemen dragged him into an office and tied him to a wooden bench using a strip of cloth across his mouth, forcing down his head. They pulled out electric batons with special wires that allowed for a much wider area to be electrocuted. Administering six batons simultaneously, each with voltage in the tens of thousands, the policemen shocked his entire body, causing Zhao to fiercely twitch and jump. The assault represented a last-ditch effort to break Zhao's spirit, as his captors tried to coerce him into signing papers denouncing Falun Gong.

The Falun Dafa Information Centre is concerned that, out of our sight, Lee may face similar danger over the next few days. Although he is an American citizen, an Amnesty International group member, and a prisoner of conscience whose case has been made prominent by congresspersons and the media, Lee has already been repeatedly abused and tortured.

Police beat him when he landed in southern China on January 22nd, 2003. Prison guards later deprived him of sleep for days and tied him to a wooden plank with his limbs stretched out in painful positions for nine hours. They put him through a show trial in which he could not even defend himself, and sent him away to Nanjing Prison for three years.

In detention, Lee's captors instigated six inmates to constantly monitor him and beat him repeatedly when he tried to perform the gentle Falun Gong exercises. Prison officials then refused to pass on a letter he wrote, while handcuffed, to the U.S. consulate. The letter, which detailed the abuses Lee has suffered in detention, was finally passed on only after he embarked on an eight-day hunger strike to demand his consular rights. In a separate hunger strike to protest abuses, guards used the dangerous force-feeding method of shoving a plastic tube up his nose and down into his throat. They then left the tube in this excruciating position for 33 hours to torment him.

Chinese Communist Party officials claim that Lee was jailed for planning to override cable broadcast signals. Lee acknowledges his intention to use this method to break through the regime's monopoly on Falun Gong-related information. This monopoly has meant that only state propaganda aimed at inciting public hatred against Falun Gong, such as the fabricated "self-immolation" incident, is shown on Chinese television; evidence of the practice's persecution in China or its being practised freely worldwide is strictly taboo.

Lee has argued that this nonviolent way of breaking through the information blockade is justified given the severe, underground persecution of Falun Gong practitioners that has claimed the lives of thousands in China over the last six years. Future generations of Americans, and Chinese, may very well associate Lee with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. These people jeopardised their own well-being for the greater good. They broke laws, but the laws were unjust, and their peaceful actions--seen from our perspective today--were rightful.

Regardless of what the charges may be, it is clear that Lee's captors are first and foremost treating him as a Falun Gong prisoner: breaking his belief in Falun Gong has been their top priority. How else could one explain their beating Lee for meditating in his cell or forcing him to sit motionless for hours on end watching anti-Falun Gong videos? The daily sessions, which could only be described as attempts to brainwash Lee, have reportedly caused a serious deterioration in his health.

In these final, critical days of Lee's detention, the FDI is asking that the U.S. government make public its concern for Charles Lee's well being. U.S. elected officials including California Senator Dianne Feinstein--who has close relations with the Chinese regime, Ambassador Clark T. Randt, the State Department, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush would do a great service not only to a courageous fellow American, but also to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed petitions and fought for his release. We urge all who can to publicly press CCP officials for Lee's safety and timely return.

For additional information on Charles Lee's case, please visit: http://faluninfo.net/fdifocus.asp?FocusType=Charles_Li

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