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Californian Sentenced in China

March 22, 2003|From Associated Press

BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced an American linked to the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement to three years in prison Friday after he was convicted of sabotaging broadcast facilities, the government said.

Charles Li of Menlo Park, Calif., also was ordered deported, the official New China News Agency said. It wasn't immediately clear whether Li would have to serve his sentence before deportation. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing had no immediate comment.

"If they deport him immediately, that would be great," Li's fiancee, Foo Yeong Ching, said by telephone from Washington, D.C. "I would be very happy to see him back here immediately."

Foo, 29, said she has been in Washington since Sunday to lobby lawmakers to pressure China for Li's release.

The charges against Li -- identified by the news agency and on his U.S. passport as Chuck Lee -- appeared to be related to the hijacking of Chinese cable and satellite television broadcasts by Falun Gong followers to show videos protesting the Chinese government ban on their group.

Chinese citizens convicted in earlier television break-ins have received prison terms of up to 20 years.

Levi Browde, a Falun Gong spokesman based in New York, said Li's trial began Friday.

Li was tried at the Yangzhou Intermediate People's Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu. U.S.-based Falun Gong organizers have identified him as a follower of their group. The news agency said Li became a U.S. citizen last year.

Li is a doctor who studied neurobiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed research at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, Foo said.

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