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Taiwan/US: John/Jane/Sharon/Yaning

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Woman works to free mother held in China

Bogaard refuses request to help
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writer of Pasadena Star News
Article Launched: 12/16/2007 12:46:39 AM PST

On the evening of Dec. 12, 2006, three policemen from the Shuangyushu Police Substation in Beijing took Shuying Li into custody for possessing Falun Gong literature, according to her daughter Yaning Liu of Baldwin Park.

PASADENA - No longer standing quietly at the edge of international protests over China's human rights record leading up to next year's Olympic Games in Beijing, Yaning Liu holds up a simple sign: "Help free my Mom."

A year ago Saturday, three police officers entered her parents' home in Beijing, searched it and, after finding Falun Gong literature, arrested her mother, Shuying Li, 64, Liu said.

It's impossible to independently verify specific details of Liu's account. She provided a copy of what she said was a "receipt" of her mother's arrest, the only documentation Liu says her family has ever received from authorities in Beijing.

Calls and e-mails to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles' Political and Press Section were not returned.

But when the objections to China's rights record turned local in the summer, Liu, an otherwise deeply introverted Baldwin Park resident who works for a downtown L.A. law firm, found herself among the steady stream of people showing up at Pasadena City Council meetings to speak against a Beijing 2008 entry in next year's Rose Parade.

She has also attended a number of protests at the Tournament of Roses and City Hall. Next, she says, she'll join Falun Gong adherents on New Year's Day, turning their backs as the entry passes them during the parade.

Since China banned Falun Gong in 1999, reportedly after thousands of adherents had a silent protest around several government buildings, followers claim they have been falsely arrested and detained without trial and even tortured.

For Liu, the Beijing float controversy has provided an opportunity for her to focus media scrutiny and public pressure to help secure her mother's release. If that makes her an opportunist, she says, then so be it.

"I'm nobody," Liu said in a recent interview. "After my mother was arrested, I wrote to the newspaper and nobody replied."

The police who took her mother never said where they were taking her, she said. More than a month passed before her father received notice. She'd been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a labor re-education camp.

There was no due process, no trial, no evidence presented, according to Liu.

As this story was being prepared, Liu said her 69-year-old father had called with disturbing news. Four government officials had paid him a visit.

"They asked my father to talk to me and try to persuade me from not talking to the press and interrupting their Olympic celebration," she said.

According to Liu, her mother is being held inside Beijing Women's Labor Camp.

She could be among about 250,000 Chinese now being held under administrative detention, according to a rough estimate by Amnesty International.

"They are not charging these people, they are not giving them a trial. All of this is in the hands of local police, who can do whatever they want," said Suzanne Wright, an Amnesty International specialist on Chinese affairs.

And they are commonly tortured, she added.

Media reports indicate such detentions by members of the Chinese government are increasing, ostensibly to remove signs of dissent before the international press corps arrive next year.

"Chinese authorities in Beijing have said they want to possibly extend the use of re-education through labor to clean up Beijing before the Olympics," Wright said. "They're using the Olympics as an excuse to continue using an illegal form of detention."

According to Liu, this was not her mother's first arrest. In 2000, she was sentenced to three years in prison for practicing Falun Gong, Liu said.

Jie Li of Alhambra was 23 when she was sentenced alongside Li, she said. She recalled the retired educator as a "very warm-hearted" woman, who helped her survive while in detention.

"She helped others too, even criminals under the age of 18," Jie Li said. "She helped teach them, because she's a teacher. She teached them some math and so on."

In June 2006, Jie Li said, both of them were moved to a detention center in Xicheng, Pasadena's sister city.

It's that relationship that Liu has asked Mayor Bill Bogaard to leverage, given Beijing's interest in using the Rose Parade to help kick off its Olympic celebrations.

For weeks, Liu had asked Bogaard to use his relationship with officials in Xicheng to urge for her mother's release.

Responding by e-mail, he declined last month.

"I want you to know that I understand fully your concern and desire for help, from any and every source, in attaining your mother's release," Bogaard wrote. "This must be a very difficult time for you and for all of the members of your family."

Bogaard on Friday said granting her request would be unlikely to have an impact and would open the gates to similar requests that would "discredit" his role as mayor.

"I'm elected for local affairs, and if I get into the business of pleading on behalf of every deserving person in the San Gabriel Valley, I am confident it will discredit my role as mayor of Pasadena," he said, adding he's resolved to focus solely on domestic matters.

Bogaard was instrumental in bringing the Beijing float to the parade. Visiting Beijing several years ago as part of the sister city program, he committed Pasadena's aid to that effort without seeking consensus from the City Council.

That crossed the line into advocating for Chinese interests, Liu contends.

"It's hypocritical," she said. "When he invited the float, he must have known what was happening in China. But now, even after everything he's heard, he seems to be abandoning his conscience. It's no excuse to say there's too many lives to be saved."

Shuying todd.ruiz@sgvn.com

(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444

www.insidesocal.com/pasadenapolitics

posted by Yaning Liu @ 11:45 PM   

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