PASADENA - After months of pleading for help to secure her mother's release from a Chinese labor camp, a woman's persistence has paid off.
In letters sent to President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China, Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, and Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, called for the release of Shuying Li, 64.
Li is being held at the Beijing Women's Labor Camp, where she was sent for practicing a spiritual tradition banned by the Communist government, according to Li's daughter, Yaning Liu of Baldwin Park.
"If the only charges against Ms. Li are based on her potential interest in Falun Gong, I urge her immediate release on humanitarian grounds," Schiff wrote in the letter.
Schiff issued a separate statement Wednesday afternoon, expanding on his letter.
"I deplore action in China and elsewhere that inhibits an individual's right to free expression, and want to encourage the Chinese leadership to release anyone being held on the basis of their religious beliefs," Schiff stated.
Solis echoed Schiff's statements in letters sent Thursday to the Chinese president and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
"If Ms. Li has been detained solely because of her religious beliefs and her interest in the Falun Gong, I respectfully request that you release her immediately based on the humanitarian issues involved," she said in her letter to Jintao.
Solis asked Rice to investigate Li's detention and consider using official diplomatic channels to push for her release.
On Dec. 15, 2006, Beijing police arrested Li after finding literature pertaining to Falun Gong.
The mainland government banned Falun Gong for "advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability," according to a July 22, 1999, report from China's state-run media.
In recent months, Liu had joined a coalition of groups protesting the inclusion of a Beijing Olympic Games float in next month's Rose Parade because of China's human rights record.
That record is getting worse, according to the U.S. Department of State's most recent report on China.
In the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing has cracked down on dissidents, reporters and its own citizens, jailing many without trial, according to international human rights organizations.
"Keen to present its best face to the world during the prestigious sporting event, the city is racing against time to improve the behavior of local residents," according to a Wednesday report from the People's Republic of China's official press agency.
Calling it "administrative detention," Chinese authorities have sent about 250,000 Chinese into so-called "education through labor" camps without trial, according to Amnesty International.
Torture is commonly employed, according to Amnesty International.
Last month, Schiff complained in writing to the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games that China has not kept its Olympic promises.
"Despite explicit promises made by Chinese government officials in 2001, the Chinese government has not taken serious steps to expand basic rights and freedom," his letter said.
Citing Li's age, Schiff conveyed Liu's concern that her mother's "health is suffering due to the harsh conditions within the Labor Camp."
Liu said she was excited and happy Monday night when a member of Schiff's staff called with news the congressman would lend his aid.
Liu lived in Pasadena when she made her request and has since relocated to Baldwin Park.
Several other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have not responded to her requests, she said.
Liu is optimistic public pressure will help secure her mother's release.
After all, she said, Chinese authorities recently freed an elderly couple after their daughter, Cher Fu, convinced congressional representatives from her home state of Washington to lobby on her behalf.