New York Congressman Tom Suozzi is urging President Biden to take action in the case of a Long Island businessman who the United Nations says is being wrongfully detained in China.
Rep. Suozzi, a Democrat whose district includes most of the North Shore of Long Island, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday, July 20, asking him to personally intervene on behalf of Kai Li.
The 60-year-old Chinese American, who lives in Huntington and emigrated to the US from Shanghai in 1989, was sentenced to 10-years in prison in 2018 on charges of espionage and spying for the FBI.
Li was convicted following a secret, one-hour trial, according to Suozzi.
He was detained in 2016 while visiting China to pay his respects on the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death.
In his letter to Biden, Suozzi described Li as being in “imminent danger” from unsanitary conditions and rapidly deteriorating health conditions. He noted that Li recently suffered a stroke, has high blood pressure, chronic gastritis, and shingles.
“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,” Suozzi wrote.
Li’s family has said that he’s been crammed into a small cell with 11 other prisoners, is only taken out once a day to be tested for COVID-19, and gets just one hour of exercise time per week.
“There are also food shortages due to the lockdown,” Suozzi wrote. “The cells are not climate controlled, and Mr. Li has told his family that he is barely able to sleep in the extreme temperatures.”
The prison has also faced allegations of making inmates participate in forced labor and limiting their phone calls to every two to three 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,” said Suozzi, who challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary.
In January 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Li was being detained arbitrarily in violation of international law and requested that China’s government immediately release him.
“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,” Suozzi said.
“For an American citizen to face such cruel and degrading treatment, is unacceptable.”
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