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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family's struggle over visa continues

Falun Gong practitioner to keep pushing China on behalf of her parents
TU: By PAUL GRONDAHL, Staff writer
First published in print: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
ALBANY — Jubilant that her mother was freed recently after six months of detention in China for being a member of the Falun Gong sect, Hongyuan "Annie" Li won't stop until her parents are granted a U.S. visa.

"You know why," a clerk told her parents as they were denied a visa application last week in Lanzhou City, where the couple live.

The visa denial is part of an ongoing persecution of Falun Gong members by Chinese communist authorities because the sect does not bend to party orthodoxy, according to Li, 36, a freelance financial writer whose husband, Chiewseng Koay, works for IBM's nanotechnology operation at the University at Albany.

Li's mother, Shizhen Qin, 67, a retired library science professor, was arrested in March and confined to a "brainwash center," according to her daughter. There, Qin was deprived of sleep and harshly interrogated in an attempt by authorities to get her to renounce her beliefs in the sect's meditation and exercises meant to enliven mind, body and spirit.

Li, of Albany, spoke to her mother briefly recently and she sounded fine, but she would not discuss details of her detainment and seemed very nervous. Li suspected her mother's phone was bugged.

Qin took up the Falun Gong regimen in 1995 to combat diabetes and high blood pressure and it improved those conditions, she said, although her husband, a retired finance professor, is not a Falun Gong follower. Li is a practitioner and praises its health benefits.

Li waged a campaign that included rallies at the state Capitol, visits to lawmakers in Washington and letters to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to expose China's human rights abuses and to win the release of her mother. She vowed to return to those tactics to try to secure a visa for her parents.

"I'll do everything I can to bring them here," she said, adding that State Department and Congressional officials have promised assistance. "I feel hopeful."

Paul Grondahl can be reached at 454-5623 or by e-mail at

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