As the ominous thunderclouds of war gather over the Middle East, countries like France and Russia have threatened to use their veto in the United Nations to thwart immediate U.S. military force against Iraq.

As the pro-war Bush coalition attempts to collect allies in favor of an Iraq war resolution, some speculate the Bush administration is turning toward dictatorial regimes. China, which the U.N. has already cited for its record of human rights offenses, has emerged as a major player in this climate.

The arrest of Charles Li, a Chinese immigrant with U.S. citizenship, has compounded a lengthening list of human rights abuses, said Sherry Zang, a seven-year Falun Gong practitioner. While traveling to China to visit his parents for the Chinese New Year, Li was arrested and jailed immediately after exiting his arriving flight, Zang said.

Falun Gong and human rights activists have charged that the arrest has no legitimacy. “The arrest of Charles Li was definitely made with no legal foundation,” Zang said.

Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice that provides moral guidance and strengthened health. Also called Falun Dafa, Falun Gong is a practice that is known to bring health and inner peace through exercises and meditation to energize the body.

“The practice improvements one’s heart and mind through the careful study of universal principles based on truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance,” LSA junior Evan Mantyk, a three-year practitioner, said. Mantyk, who recently returned from a protest in Washington to heighten public awareness of the arrest, stressed the non-threatening practices of the group. “Falun Gong is not a political organization, simply a spiritual guidance,” Mantyk added.

In July 1999, the communist regime in China outlawed the practice and started a nationwide campaign to demonize and eradicate Falun, Mantyk said. Since the induction of these laws, China began persecuting Falun Gong practitioners through numerous arrests, tortures and mass killings of thousands of innocent people, he added. This is a major violation of international treaties that China has signed, Zang, a Free Charles Li supporter, said.

The Chinese regime cites Falun Gong as a delusional cult that is attempting to overthrow the Communist Party’s rule, the Chinese embassy website states.

But Zang said, “All these statements are ridiculous lies and are used as scapegoats to persecute Falun Gong practitioners.”

If convicted, Li faces 15 years in prison for damaging television equipment. “The Falun Gong cult addicts have repeatedly sabotaged various public communication systems and even hijacked national satellite broadcasts, resulting in serious damage to the public order on the Chinese mainland,” Embassy spokesman Feng Xie said in a report issued by the Chinese Security Review Commission. “Falun Gong is in contempt of international laws and regulations, that have unscrupulously upset the order of wireless communications and launched a challenge against civilization,” Xie added.

Zang said the Chinese government has used the law and media as tools to limit the freedoms of citizens in order to persecute innocent people. Representatives of the regime have adopted every means to defame and slander Falun Gong including the arrest of Li, Zang added.

With no chance of a fair trial and right to counsel, rescuing Li is not merely a rescue of a Falun Gong practitioner, but an important political stand that American citizens have guaranteed uninfringed rights when visiting other nations, Zang said.

The U.S. government should use every appropriate public and private forum to urge the government of the People’s Republic of China to free Charles Li, Mantyk said.

But Li has expressed worries regarding his immediate release. “Major issues covering economy and especially the war with Iraq are definitely more persistent in more politicians minds that human rights issues in China,” Evan said.

There are doubts and little hope that coordination between governments can justly resolve this matter, Mantyk said. “It is very important that the United States government upholds justice and protects its citizens,” he added.

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