EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the April 24, 2006, issue of National Review.
Charles Lee has a story to tell, and I have come to hear it, in a New York conference room. Dr. Lee has recently been released from a Chinese prison, after three years’ confinement. He is an American–a U.S. citizen since 2002–and he talks like one: His conversation is peppered with “like,” as in, “If you tried to move, they would, like, hit you.” Dr. Lee is a remarkably composed and assured man. But he has been through a ghastly ordeal, which is no surprise, given the People’s Republic and its ways.
Dr. Lee was born in 1965, in the eastern province of Jiangsu. His parents worked in a cotton mill. He himself went to medical school in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1991, he came to the United States, for further study and research at the University of Illinois and Harvard. In 1997, he became a practitioner of Falun Gong, a system involving meditation and exercises.
When Falun Gong first became popular in the 1990s, the Chinese government supported it, as a means of promoting both health and traditional Chinese culture. But when they discovered just how popular it was–100 million were practicing Falun Gong, they found–they banned it. That was in 1999. Since then, they have been waging a merciless campaign against practitioners of Falun Gong, seizing, torturing, and killing them. Indeed, these people might be said to be bearing the brunt of PRC brutality at the moment.
Dr. Lee decided to return to China to try to assist his fellow Falun Gong practitioners. He was especially concerned with countering the government’s propaganda against the movement; this propaganda is pervasive and constant. He first went in 2002, for three weeks. He was arrested, but managed to get out. He went again in January 2003, and this time he was not so lucky…
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