Sect follower convicted of sabotage; faces expulsion

The South China Morning Post/March 22, 2003

Beijing -- A Chinese-American linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, outlawed on the mainland, was sentenced to three years in prison by a court in Jiangsu province yesterday, after being convicted of sabotaging broadcast facilities, reports said.

Charles Li Xianchun was also ordered deported, Xinhua reported. It was not immediately clear whether Li - identified by Xinhua and on his US passport as Chuck Lee - would have to serve his sentence in China before being deported. The US embassy in Beijing had no immediate comment.

The charges against Li appeared to be related to the hijacking of Chinese cable and satellite television broadcasts by Falun Gong followers to show videos protesting at the Chinese government ban.

Chinese citizens convicted on earlier TV break-ins have received prison terms of up to 20 years.

Levi Browde, a Falun Gong spokesman in New York, said Li's trial started yesterday morning at the Yangzhou Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu.

Xinhua said Li became a US citizen last year.

A US embassy spokesman said yesterday that he had no information about the sentence, but the embassy has said it had been monitoring Li's case. Li's relatives and a representative of the US Consulate in Shanghai attended the trial.

Li arrived in Yangzhou in October 2002 and bought video disc recorders, computerised time switches and other instruments, Xinhua said.

On October 22, 2002, Li was detained while on his way to install the transmitters on the local cable network, Xinhua alleged, adding that he escaped and returned to the US. When he attempted to return to China on January 22 this year he was detained by police.

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