Kane County Chronicle (Geneva, Illinois), June 20, 2003
By BRENDA SCHORY, Kane County Chronicle
GENEVA — Three Falun Gong practitioners held a banner in front of Geneva City Hall Thursday, seeking help to rescue a California doctor being held in China.
“SOS: Urgent Rescue of U.S. Citizen Dr. Li Persecuted in China,” read the banner held by Chen Hou and his wife, Sara Effner of Missouri, and Jiwu Wang, of Kentucky.
Li is from China but is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He returned to China to challenge the country’s stand on Falun Gong and intended to tap into the state-run cable broadcast to prove his case. He was arrested Jan. 22 at Guangzhou airport and sentenced to three years in the Nanjin Prison.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a meditative practice that the Chinese government says is a cult that disrupts the country’s social order. Practitioners say the government crackdown is a violation of human rights.
“We want to raise awareness of Falun Gong and Dr. Li,” Effner said. The three were part of several teams of supporters who stopped in Kane and McHenry county cities this week.
Falun Gong followers are known for meditative public exercises and dedication to nonviolence. The Chinese government, however, claimed that its followers immolated themselves at Tianamen Square and that is why the movement is dangerous.
Wang said Chinese Communists eventually rejected Falun Gong because they reject any spiritual belief.
Wang said Li had proof that the government fabricated the immolation and planned to tap into its cable system to present the counterpoint to Chinese citizens directly.
“From 1992 to 1999, the Chinese government promoted Falun Gong,” Wang said. “They gave awards to it and encouraged people to do the exercises because 90 percent of the people who practiced would be cured of illness.”
Effner, 26, was one of 70 practitioners from 13 countries who was arrested for performing the exercises publicly in Tianamen Square as a public protest of the government crackdown.
“I was detained a day. President Bush was going there and they did not want 70 people in jail with the president there,” Effner said. The government gave her an airplane ticket home.
“We are not against the government or the Communist Party,” Hou, 27, said. “We just want peaceful practice of Falun Gong.”
Human rights groups acknowledge that Falun Gong followers have been tortured and killed in China. Supporters of Li say he has been beaten and tortured while in prison.
Li returned to China knowing that he might be arrested much the same way Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail in Birmingham, Ala., seeking civil rights for blacks.
“He is a very kind person to take such a chance,” Effner said.