China Rejects American Falun Gong Appeal

A Chinese court has rejected an appeal by an American linked to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement who was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of sabotage, the U.S. Embassy said Monday.

The charges against Charles Li appeared to be related to incidents in which Falun Gong activists broke into Chinese television signals to show videos protesting the government's 4-year-old ban on the group.

Li, of Menlo Park, Calif., was sentenced March 21 by the Yangzhou Intermediate People's Court in the eastern city of Yangzhou, which also ordered him deported. Yangzhou is 120 miles northwest of Shanghai.

The court turned down Li's appeal on May 9, said the embassy spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether Li would be deported immediately or serve jail time in China.

An official at the Yangzhou court said Li was in a prison in the eastern city of Nanjing. A man who answered the telephone at the Nanjing prison refused to give any details.

Falun Gong was banned in 1999 as a threat to public safety and communist rule. It had attracted millions of followers with its mix of slow-motion exercises and doctrines drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder, a former Chinese government clerk.

Thousands of followers have been detained. Activists abroad say scores have died in police custody from beatings and abuse. Chinese authorities deny mistreating anyone but say some have died from hunger strikes or refusing medical attention.