In his office at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, Frank Xie folds his legs into a sitting lotus to meditate.
In his native China, fellow practitioners of Falun Gong are persecuted for the same practice, said Xie, an assistant professor of marketing,
He will speak Wednesday about religious persecution of Falun Gong at a meeting of the CSRA Peace Alliance.
Falun Gong, a meditation practice centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, came to be seen as a threat to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Amnesty International has recorded nearly 1,600 cases of detention, arrest or sentencing of Falun Gong practitioners since China outlawed the belief system in 1999. The human rights organization reports that tens of thousands of practitioners have been arbitrarily detained, tortured, ill-treated or pressured to renounce their beliefs.
"All the while, the president of China is coming to visit, and our economy is tied up in China's," said Denice Traina, co-chairwoman of the Peace Alliance, which was established in Augusta in 2008. "We have to educate ourselves about that relationship. It seemed like such a timely issue to look at."
Xie is thankful the topic is garnering attention. He's traveled to universities in New York and Geneva to speak on Falun Gong persecution, and says too many Americans are still unaware.
"When I get the chance, I must speak up," said Xie, who moved to the United States more than 20 years ago. "Americans are always shocked. Everyone is shocked."
He studied science in China, and, in 1986, came to the United States to continue his education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. While he was away at school, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the subsequent government crackdown shook China.
"We couldn't go back," he said. "We had to stay."
Xie, who was born in Anshan, China, worked as a chemist before deciding it wasn't for him. He got his master's degree from Georgia State University and worked in finance instead. Xie earned his doctorate in marketing, and began to teach. After working in classrooms at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Xie moved to Atlanta.
"We like the South better," he said with a laugh.
He lives in Atlanta with his wife and commutes to Aiken mid-week to teach. He also writes a column for The Epoch Times , a multi-language international newspaper founded by supporters of Falun Gong.
It was there that Xie said he read of some of the gravest human rights abuses -- such as organ-harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. A 2006 independent investigation by Canadian human rights lawyers and politicians found circumstantial but persuasive evidence in support of the claims of systematic organ harvesting.
"The government has turned persecution into a lucrative business with the buying and selling of organs," Xie said.
Because of the hours Falun Gong practitioners spend meditating, Xie said, many have better-than-average health, which makes them targets for government organ harvesting. Practitioners also abstain from drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, premarital sex and homosexuality.
Since Xie began meditation in 2001, he says he's had good health.
"I've had no sickness, no problems. Not one doctor's visit for 10 years," he said.
Falun Gong helped him in other ways, too, Xie said.
"I'm a better person. I'm more truthful, compassionate and tolerant," he said.
Xie didn't learn about Falun Gong until well after leaving China. He says he didn't grow up with any particular faith.
"We were indoctrinated, everyone in China was, to be an atheist," he said. "Everyone was. I didn't believe in God. I didn't believe in Buddha. I didn't believe in anything."
Even as a chemist, Xie said he knew there was plenty that couldn't be explained by science.
"I knew something was there. I came to this country and started searching. I went to all the churches I could find," he said.
"I found Falun Gong and knew the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance were true. If we all followed those, society would be much better."