U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi urged the White House Wednesday to intervene in the case of a Chinese-American man from Huntington who has been imprisoned in China since 2018.
Businessman Kai Li, who is 60, was accused by Chinese authorities of espionage, and convicted after a one-hour secret trial, Suozzi’s letter says. Li’s health is deteriorating, and he is being held under harsh and inhumane conditions which are worsening, the letter said.
“Please personally intervene in the case of Mr. Kai Li, my constituent, who is one of only two Americans that the United Nations has opined is arbitrarily and improperly imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, the Department of State’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs has identified Mr. Li as one of three US nationals who are “wrongful detainees,” Suozzi wrote to President Joe Biden, calling for the urgent intervention in Li’s case.
“For the last four years, my father has been held wrongfully and unjustly by the Chinese Communist Party. He is just a businessman and a family man. What he has been charged with has hurt our family,” said Harrison Li, son of Kai Li, who also lives in Huntington. “Working with Congressman Suozzi, we are doing everything we can to help my father and have the White House assist us in those efforts.”
Li is being held in Qingpu Prison, where allegations of forced labor have been made. Phone calls home are rare, happening every two to three months, Suozzi’s office said. During the last call, Li made it clear that the calls were monitored and that he was uneasy talking much about prison conditions amidst the COVID-19 lockdown measures in Shanghai. Li’s family has reported that he has received threats for writing letters to elected U.S. government officials.
A full copy of Suozzi’s letter to President Biden can be found linked here and below.
Dear Mr. President,
Please personally intervene in the case of Mr. Kai Li, my constituent, who is one of only two Americans that the United Nations has opined is arbitrarily and improperly imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, the Department of State’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs has identified Mr. Li as one of three US Nationals who are “wrongful detainees.”
Mr. Li, 60 years old, is in poor health and is rapidly deteriorating under harsh and inhumane conditions, the severity of which have been exacerbated by the record-breaking heatwave in Shanghai. Next week, July 25, 2022, marks four years since Mr. Li, a U.S. Citizen, was arbitrary sentenced to ten years in prison on baseless charges of espionage. It has been six years since Mr. Li was first detained, when he visited China to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death. Please help reunite Mr. Li with his family.
Prior to sentencing, Mr. Li was detained, in communicado, without access to legal counsel or family, under a procedure called “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL).” RSDL is a practice which has been condemned by the United Nations and the international community, as a form of enforced disappearance. The International Service of Human Rights has called this practice “the best cover to carry out torture.” Mr. Li spent ten weeks in RSDL where he underwent harsh interrogations, before he was moved to Shanghai Number One Detention Center, where he spent 27 months awaiting adjudication. The Chinese authorities violated protocol by not notifying the United States embassy while Mr. Li was held under RSDL.
Mr. Li’s one hour long “secret trial” took place on August 10, 2017. Family members, and the general public, United States consular representatives were prohibited from attending, in violation of the consular agreement between China and the United States and article 14(2) of the International Covenant on Political and Human Rights. Prior to sentencing, the presiding judge disturbingly confessed that she did not have any real control over the outcome of the case and was “waiting on her boss to give her guidance” on Mr. Li’s sentence. In July 2018, Mr. Li was found guilty of spying for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The “state secrets” that Kai Li is alleged to have stolen were all available online-even in China.
Mr. Li is currently being held in Qingpu Prison. This prison has been under scrutiny due to allegations of forced labor. Phone calls home are rare and take place every 2-3 months. During the last call, Mr. Li made it clear that the calls were monitored and that he was uneasy talking much about prison conditions amidst the COVID-19 lockdown measures in Shanghai. Mr. Li’s family has reported that he has received threats for writing letters to elected U.S. government officials.
Since imprisonment, Mr. Li’s health has rapidly deteriorated. While detained, he has suffered a stroke, high blood pressure, chronic gastritis, and shingles. His immune system has become very weak. Mr. Li’s family has reported he is kept in a tiny cell with 11 other prisoners, except for daily covid testing and one weekly hour of exercise. There are also food shortages due to the lockdown. The cells are not climate controlled, and Mr. Li has told his family that he is barely able to sleep in the extreme temperatures. Shanghai is currently in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. Mr. Li is almost 60 years old and suffers from depression. This is worrisome considering cases such as Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, who died after returning from a North Korean prison in a vegetative state, and Mathew Heath, an American imprisoned in Venezuela who attempted suicide last month.
Mr. Li is one of only two Americans who the United Nations has ruled is detained arbitrarily. In an opinion dated January 18, 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr. Li is being detained arbitrarily in violation of international law and requested China’s Government take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Li without delay, and immediately release and compensate. China’s gross violation of Mr. Li’s due process does not only harm him and his family, but it strikes terror into the hearts of Chinese Americans, who fear, with reason, that they can also become victims of political retaliation and face torture and imprisonment when they visit their loved ones in China. For an American citizen to face such cruel and degrading treatment, is unacceptable. Given Mr. Li’s fragile health and vulnerable mental state, his life is in imminent danger which only worsens with each passing day. After six years of unbearable anguish for Mr. Li and his family, please prioritize Mr. Li’s release and make every effort to secure his freedom on humanitarian grounds, as quickly as possible. Thank you for your consideration of my request.