Daily Trojan Online, Apr. 1, 2003
By KEITH WAGSTAFF, Staff Writer
The USC Falun Gong club, as well as Falun Gong supporters across the world, are upset over the sentencing of a U.S. citizen by the Chinese government to three years in jail for what the spiritual groups claim was nothing more than practicing and advocating the banned movement.
Charles Li, a Menlo Park, Calif., resident and Falun Gong member, was convicted of allegedly sabotaging broadcast facilities, The Associated Press reported.
Members of the USC Falun Gong club believe the arrest was made under false pretenses and have set up a petition to convince government officials to speak up on the matter, according to a USC Falun Gong club press release.
“It is important that every practitioner is free, not just to Falun Gong, but to every religion,” said Mei Zhou, a graduate student in communication and vice chair of the USC Falun Gong club.
The battle between the Chinese government and American activists over this issue has led to other conflicts besides the Charles Li controversy.
A friend of Zhou’s, Leeshai Lemish, a Pomona College sophomore majoring in Chinese studies and coordinator of the Pomona College Falun Gong club, recently went to China with a group in an effort to educate the Chinese people that Falun Gong was practiced all over the world and was not evil as the government was portraying it.
Within 30 seconds of meditating, the group was surrounded by the Chinese police and dragged into vans, Lemish said. At the police station he was beaten, yelled at and had all his possessions taken from him.
He and his group were then taken to the airport and were put on a flight to Vancouver, British Columbia, even though they were from Los Angeles, he said. Lemish left China with a broken jaw while the government said in the news that they had been an anticommunist group trying to overthrow the government.
“There are misconceptions about what Falun Gong is because the Chinese government persecuting Falun Gong tries to portray them as a terrorist group or a cult, which is simply not accurate,” Lemish said.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that stresses following the three main principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, as well as the physical and mental benefits of meditative exercises, said Michael Ye, a graduate student in public policy, planning and development and the president of the USC Falun Gong club.
Falun Gong follows no set canon or doctrine, but is rather a spiritual discipline aimed at bringing better health, reduced stress, inner peace and deepened morals, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center Web site.
There are 15 Falun Gong practice sites throughout Los Angeles, including those at USC and UCLA as well as Venice Beach, Ye said. All the Falun Gong groups attempt to introduce people to the meditation practice free of charge.
Many USC students have seen the Falun Gong group on campus but are unsure about what exactly it is.
“I would like to learn more about it, I think it would help if I could go to a class about it,” said Rob Harring, a junior majoring in business administration.
Falun Gong was first introduced into the mainstream in 1991, even though it has been practiced in the mountains of China since ancient times, Ye said. The meditative practice was outlawed in 1999 by the then Chinese communist party chair and now military committee leader Jiang Zemin, Ye added.
Even though Jiang Zemin opposes Falun Gong because of its great popularity, there are lower officials who sympathize with the persecuted group, Ye said.
Students may visit Falun Gong club Web site at http://www.faluninfo.net.
The USC Falun Gong club meets every day at 6:30 a.m. next to von Kleinsmid Center, Ye said.