Mother held in labor camp
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writer of Pasadena Star News
Article Launched: 12/19/2007 10:59:55 PM PST
A copy of Rep. Schiff's letter
PASADENA - After months of pleading for help to secure her mother's release from a Chinese labor camp, a local woman's persistence has paid off.
In a letter sent to President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, called for the release of Shuying Li, 64.
Li is being held at the Beijing Women's Labor Camp, where she was sent for practicing a spiritual tradition banned by the Communist government, according to Li's daughter, Yaning Liu of Baldwin Park.
"If the only charges against Ms. Li are based on her potential interest in Falun Gong, I urge her immediate release on humanitarian grounds," Schiff wrote in the letter.
Schiff issued a separate statement Wednesday afternoon, expanding on his letter.
"I deplore action in China and elsewhere that inhibits an individual's right to free expression, and want to encourage the Chinese leadership to release anyone being held on the basis of their religious beliefs," Schiff stated.
On Dec. 15, 2006, Beijing police arrested Li after finding literature pertaining to Falun Gong.
The mainland government banned Falun Gong for "advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability," according to a
July 22, 1999, report from China's state-run media.
In recent months, Liu had joined a coalition of groups protesting the inclusion of a Beijing Olympic Games float in next month's Rose Parade because of China's rights record.
That record is getting worse, according to the U.S. Department of State's most recent report on China.
In the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing has cracked down on dissidents, reporters and its own citizens, jailing many without trial, according to international human rights organizations.
"Keen to present its best face to the world during the prestigious sporting event, the city is racing against time to improve the behavior of local residents," according to a Wednesday report from the People's Republic of China's official press agency.
Calling it "administrative detention," Chinese authorities have sent about 250,000 Chinese into so-called "education through labor" camps without trial, according to Amnesty International.
Torture is commonly employed, according to Amnesty.
Last month, Schiff complained in writing to the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games that China has not kept its Olympic promises.
"Despite explicit promises made by Chinese government officials in 2001, the Chinese government has not taken serious steps to expand basic rights and freedom," his letter said.
Citing Li's age, Schiff conveyed Liu's concern that her mother's "health is suffering due to the harsh conditions within the Labor Camp."
Liu said she was excited and happy Monday night when a member of Schiff's staff called with news the congressman would lend his aid.
"Among all the officials I contacted so far, Congressman Schiff is the only one who responded to my plea and offered help," she said.
Liu lived in Pasadena when she made her request and has since relocated to Baldwin Park.
Several other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have not responded to her requests, she said, including her Baldwin Park representative, Rep Hilda Solis, D-El Monte.
"I basically begged her to help me, and I seldom beg," Liu said.
Solis' Chief of Staff Don Lyster said that request hadn't made it up to his boss and that it was now being evaluated and investigated for a pending determination.
He didn't rule out the possibility Solis would join in calling for Li's release.
Liu is optimistic public pressure will help secure her mother's release.
After all, she said, Chinese authorities recently freed an elderly couple after their daughter, Cher Fu, convinced congressional representatives from her home state of Washington to lobby on her behalf.
After initially being referred by Schiff to the U.S. Department of State, Liu said she was surprised and grateful that Pasadena Councilwoman Jacque Robinson followed up with the congressman's office.
"If it was me, I'd want help as well, no matter where it came from," Robinson said. "It's not like I had 100 people calling and coming to my office asking for help."
Robinson said the action didn't run counter to the positions of the city and the mayor, who recently declined to help Liu.
And, she said, Liu kept coming to council meetings and didn't quit,
"She was persistent," Robinson said.