Seattle Times, Mar. 22, 2003
BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced a U.S. member of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement to three years in prison yesterday for sabotaging television broadcasts, but ordered his expulsion, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It was not immediately clear when Charles Li, 38, also known as Chuck Lee, from Menlo Park, Calif., would be expelled.
Li, a U.S. citizen since 2002, was taken into police custody Jan. 22 after entering China, the official news agency Xinhua said.
The Intermediate People’s Court in Yangzhou convicted Li of sabotaging television broadcasts last October, Xinhua said.
China branded Falun Gong an “evil cult” in 1999 after thousands of followers shocked the government with a mass protest around the Beijing leadership compound near Tiananmen Square demanding official recognition of their faith.
The group combines a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism, traditional Chinese breathing exercises and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi.
More than 20 members of the banned group have been tried and sentenced on charges of hijacking television signals around China. At times, Falun Gong material has been broadcast over hijacked signals.
Li’s fiancée, Foo Yeong Ching, said she has been in Washington, D.C., lobbying lawmakers to pressure China for Li’s release since Sunday.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said yesterday he had no information about the sentence, but the embassy has said it is monitoring Li’s case closely. Xinhua said Li’s relatives and a representative of the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai attended the trial.
Xinhua said Li arrived in Yangzhou in October and bought video-disc recorders, computerized time switches and other instruments. It accused him of assembling five sets of television-signal transmission devices.
Li was seized while on his way to install the transmitters on the local cable network Oct. 22, Xinhua alleged. It said he escaped and returned to the United States, but that he was detained by police upon returning to China on Jan. 22.
Foo said Li returned to China to tell his family of his plans to marry and was detained by police for disobeying a city curfew. Li did not escape custody but was told he could leave the police station, she said.
Li is a medical doctor who studied neurobiology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed research at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Foo said.