BY NATE ROSENBERG
Dr. Charles Lee has been beaten, interrogated for days, deprived of sleep, put through a show trial, dragged to "reeducation classes," tied to an iron bed, and had a hard plastic tube shoved up his nose.
Ms. Yeong-Ching Foo has, for the past nine months, been tirelessly attending press events, visiting government offices, and collecting signatures trying to bring her fiance back.
Lee is enduring a Chinese prison's all-out efforts to break his conviction.
Foo has been to Capitol Hill. She has been to Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago, and points in between. She has her Congresswoman's and the State Department's phone numbers memorized. She is hoping someone can do something to help her fiance and the people of China.
Worlds apart, they share courage, endurance, and hope.
Lee, a naturalized U. S. citizen from Menlo Park, California, traveled to China to expose the human rights violations committed against Falun Gong practitioners. However, Lee never made it into China on his own. He was arrested on January 22, 2003 as soon as he got off the airplane at the Guangzhou Airport in southern China.
Foo, 30, is a University of California Davis graduate who entered the software industry in the Silicon Valley. She met Lee, a graduate of University of Illinois who conducted research at Harvard, at a social gathering at Stanford University.
Foo says that Lee went to China to defend the lives of others. "Charles had a very comfortable life, a good life, here in America. But he loves his fellow Chinese people so much, and he sees them suffer under this persecution," she says.
A Falun Gong practitioner and member of Amnesty International Group 466, Lee had intended to assist in broadcasting evidence of the persecution of Falun Gong by overriding the signal of a state-controlled TV broadcast. Falun Gong practitioners in China have used this method since February 2002 to try to break through China's pervasive information blockade. Foo explains that the information blockade is a key weapon in the hands of Jiang's regime--it has hidden the bloody persecution from the world outside China, and even from China's own people.
In a 96-page letter Lee wrote while in jail, he explains that overriding China's cable broadcast signals is justified and necessary given the state of emergency this persecution has created in China.
"The whole persecution is based on lies, so all of the people in China are affected," says Lee's fiancee. She says by exposing the cover-up of the persecution, Lee sought to spare innocent people from being tortured to death. He also sought to give a chance to reconsider their actions to those who, misled by the propaganda, take part in persecuting their fellow countrymen. Perhaps if they knew the truth they would no longer commit these terrible crimes.
Lee must have known the risks involved in his efforts. At least five Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who successfully broadcasted evidence of the persecution in China have been tortured to death, while others have been sentenced to long periods in jail and have been subject to life-threatening torture.
"A lot of practitioners have been tortured to death, brainwashed, physically and mentally tortured," says Foo. Yet, she says she believes Lee went to China knowing that whatever punishment he receives if caught will be less than what a Chinese citizen would have to suffer.
Perhaps that is the case. Yet, in the 96-page letter that Lee wrote while handcuffed in custody and managed to get to the U.S. consulate only after enduring an eight-day hunger strike, Lee reveals that he, too, has been abused all along.
According to the letter, he was beaten upon arrest at the Guangzhou Airport, was interrogated and deprived of sleep for three days and nights, and was handcuffed and tied in agonizing positions for long periods of time. Between March 27 and April 2 he was handcuffed consecutively for 130 hours. In February, he was tied to the iron "death bed" for nine hours, with his four limbs painfully stretched out.
Most dangerous have been the several forced feedings that Lee has been subjected to. Many practitioners have died from this form of torture. Those who have suffered it say it is excruciatingly painful. On one occasion the feeding tube inserted into Charles nose was left there for 39 straight hours, simply to increase his suffering.
The U.S. consular officials in Shanghai have repeatedly protested the abuses, and the Chinese government has repeatedly denied all allegations of torture of Falun Gong practitioners, and has maintained that Lee was arrested simply based on criminal
charges of what he "intended to do."
Foo believes, however, that "the real reason they persecute him is because of his belief in Falun Gong. It really has nothing to do with their charges."
She says that the Chinese security authorities have tried to brainwash Lee from the very beginning. What they really want is to "transform" him and force him to renounce and slander the practice, she says.
Meanwhile, the pressure on Lee only builds. The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai reported in November that the brainwashing sessions now go on daily, and are more intense.
Foo has not been allowed to speak with her fiance since his arrest. She says she would like to tell him to hold on. "We are going to get him out. We are working very hard, not only in the U. S., but worldwide, to get his release. I want him to hang on there; I really need him to hang on there."
Nate Rosenberg is an Israeli and American citizen. Nate served as his university's Amnesty International coordinator and is currently researching Chinese concepts of rights in the 20th century.