China plans to launch a jam-proof communications satellite next year in a bid to keep a step ahead of Falungong and other groups using radio and TV to spread their messages, state media said.
The Chinese Academy of Space Technology, which developed the satellite, said the SINOSAT-II was designed to resist interference from outside sources, especially the Falungong, according to the China Daily.
One of the latest attacks occurred in October when members of Falungong, banned as an "evil cult" in China, blocked signals from SINOSAT, the existing communications satellite, as China was broadcasting its first manned space mission, the paper said.
The SINOSAT-II is the first large-capacity communications satellite designed and developed solely by China, and it hopes to be able to get a bite of the global market with the new product, according to the report.
The SINOSAT-II launch is being planned as China's space program enters a "pivotal" period, according to the paper.
The country expects to place 10 satellites into orbit in 2004, more than any other year in history, according to Zhang Qingwei, a top aerospace official.
China plans to send two astronauts into space next year, and hopes to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon by 2010.
Falungong once claimed millions of followers in China but has faced a tough crackdown by the government, which considers it one of the most serious threats to its rule.
A Sydney woman today said her Falun Gong-practising sister had been abducted in China after trying to get a visa to visit Australia.
Lisa Liang said her 36-year-old sister Tang Yiwen was abducted on Monday in Guangzhou City, in the Chinese province of Guangdong, after refusing to give up Falun Gong.
The spiritual movement is outlawed in China.
"(My sister) applied for a passport from Guangzhou police on Monday," Ms Liang said today.
"She was told it was the policy of Guangdong Province that Falun Gong practitioners are not allowed to leave China."
Ms Liang, who also practises Falun Gong, said she was concerned for Ms Tang, who had been released in August last year after a three-year detention in a women's labour camp in Guangzhou City.
The Australian woman said her sister had been tortured during her time in the camp.
Mind control at the hands of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara was a key defense argument for many of the 11 cultists sentenced to death and the six others handed life prison terms for carrying out Aum's heinous crimes -- an argument that had little if any effect.
As the convicted cultists pursue their appeals, including before the Supreme Court, their lawyers continue to seek leniency, claiming their clients were brainwashed by the guru and his teachings -- a factor the courts have partially recognized.
In the case of Kiyohide Hayakawa, who was convicted of playing a role in the 1989 murders of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and errant cultist Shuji Taguchi, the Tokyo District Court determined the accused was in a "state of absolute obedience to the guru, in which it was unthinkable to refuse his orders."
But Hayakawa was nonetheless sentenced to hang. The judge noted, "It is very common in organized crimes that a member of a lower rank blindly follows the orders of his senior, and that does not lessen his criminal responsibility."
In sentencing Toru Toyoda and Kenichi Hirose to death for their role in the 1995 sarin attack on Tokyo's subway system, the court also acknowledged the pair were in a state in which they could not reject the guru's orders.
Journalist Yoshifu Arita, who has closely watched the Aum trials, criticized the court for not taking into adequate account the effects of mind control.
"The court completely lacks the view that it is dealing with crimes committed by a cult," Arita said. "Sentences are handed down under the same criteria as any other criminal offense, and punishments are based on the number of people killed in the crime involving the accused cultist. But the judges should have first realized that the crimes would never have happened if it had not been for Asahara."
Arita said society has wrongly perceived the cultists as part of a bizarre fringe group. They could have been anybody, he said, noting Asahara used brainwashing tactics that entailed the use of drugs.
In "the initiation of Christ" ploy, Aum members had to drink a liquid containing LSD, and then were made to sit in solitary confinement with a photo of the guru and listen to his recorded sermons for up to 10 hours.
Because they did not know they had been drugged, they thought their hallucinations were the result of some religious miracle, thereby solidifying their dedication to the guru, Arita said.
"Because the court neglected to look into the mechanism of mind control, our society will remain vulnerable to such crimes in the future," he said.
Arita said he supports the 2000 district court-imposed life prison term handed to Yoshihiro Inoue. Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty, saying he served as the commander of the 1995 subway attack.
In addition to recognizing that Inoue was a mere "liaison," the court took into account that he was under the influence of Asahara's mind control, Arita pointed out.
"At his lawyers' request, the judge allowed Inoue to undergo psychoanalysis, which showed he was still under Asahara's mind control. The psychological counseling that followed made him reflect deeply on his deeds" -- a factor that may have led to his avoiding capital punishment, he said.
Sadao Asami, professor emeritus at Tohoku Gakuin University and an expert on religious studies who counseled Inoue, also criticized the court for not giving other cultists the chance to receive similar treatment. Only a few judges, lawyers and prosecutors in Japan understand the importance of such treatment for offenders, he said.
"Cultists were not given a chance to look back and repent, and were just sentenced to death, as if that was the objective of the trial. Those in the judiciary feel they are above having to learn (about mind control) even if that may be relevant," he said.
Asami noted he would have been able to open up Asahara if given the opportunity, possibly helping resolve the mystery surrounding his alleged crimes.
Toyo Atsumi, a professor of criminal law at Chuo University, dismissed this argument and said remorse or the mind control argument should not be mitigating factors in handing down verdicts for crimes of this gravity.
Inoue's sentence was based solely on his degree of involvement in the attack, Atsumi said, noting mind control is too elusive an argument to be used to determine punishment, especially for members of Aum, who joined the cult at their own volition.
Friday is verdict day in the eight-year trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, who if the state has its way will hang for masterminding or ordering 13 heinous crimes that resulted in 27 slayings at the hands of his disciples.
The Tokyo District Court has sentenced 11 cultists to death for the killings, ruling they were all masterminded by the guru, including two sarin attacks that together claimed 19 lives and injured thousands.
The judges all concluded the cultists acted on orders from Asahara, 48, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto. But his lawyers portrayed the nearly blind, babbling guru as not being a party to crimes they claim were carried out by those of his flock who misunderstood his teachings, which were based on a medley of Eastern religions.
The conspiracy theory
Prosecutors portrayed Asahara as the mastermind, using testimony from cultists already convicted to argue that he conspired with those disciples who physically carried out the crimes.
Asahara's lawyers have meanwhile claimed otherwise, saying his criminally bent disciples misunderstood him and ran amok. They have also claimed such damning testimony was an attempt by the actual perpetrators to mitigate their guilt, and they have even split hairs over semantics, claiming, for example, that his use of the term "poa" was not an order to kill but merely to bring the target to a higher consciousness.
Asahara's defense has also tried to blame the cult's gruesome crimes on key disciple Hideo Murai, who was stabbed to death in front of reporters by a mobster in April 1995 as the police crackdown intensified against the cult in the wake of the Tokyo subway sarin attack the previous month. The counsel said Murai's death made it hard to get at the truth.
Asahara never entered a plea and, except for occasional incoherent outbursts in court, has kept silent.
Whereas prosecutors have relied on testimony from accused senior cultists that the guru was in charge, Asahara's lawyers have underscored that those accounts have been conflicting.
To back up charges that Asahara ordered the Tokyo subway gas attack, which claimed 12 lives, the prosecution trotted out testimony by key disciple Yoshihiro Inoue, quoting him as saying that two days before the gassing, Asahara told Murai in a limousine to "take full command" of the attack.
They also quoted hearsay testimony provided by Aum's doctor, Ikuo Hayashi, that the late Murai told four cultists involved in the attack that "the order had come from there," pointing up with his head and eyes, indicating the guru.
Asahara's lawyers have argued that the four cultists present did not witness this gesture by Murai, that the attack was actually orchestrated by Inoue and Murai, and that Inoue falsely testified that Asahara was the mastermind to lessen his own guilt.
In accusing Asahara of masterminding the June 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which killed seven people, prosecutors used a statement given to investigators by key cultist Tomomitsu Niimi that a week before the attack, the guru had ordered him, Murai and two others to "disperse the gas around the Matsumoto court" handling a real estate dispute involving Aum "to assess the effects" of the gas.
Asahara's defense has rebutted this by noting that Niimi later retracted that statement, that Murai proposed the gassing, and that it would have been illogical for the cult to gas the court over a trivial legal dispute Aum probably would have won.
On the Nov. 4, 1989, slaying of Yokohama lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and baby son, prosecutors claimed Asahara summoned Murai and four other disciples and quoted him as saying, "The biggest problem for the cult is lawyer Sakamoto. He will be a big obstacle for the cult in the future."
Prosecutors said the guru used the term poa with regard to Sakamoto, who had been trying to help people get their offspring out of Aum. Prosecutors claimed the word in the cult's doctrine meant to kill someone for the sake of the victim's spiritual salvation.
Asahara's counsel countered by claiming he would never use poa if he had meant to kill, saying he only used the word to mean "put someone's consciousness on a higher level."
The counsel said his disciples instead "went out of control" in the face of increasing media scrutiny of the cult that they believed Sakamoto had triggered.
Asahara, in brief moments of courtroom coherence, claimed the crimes for which he stands accused were the arbitrary work of his disciples, and that he had "already been found innocent."
Writer Ryuzo Saki, who has viewed several Aum trials, said the convictions already handed down assuming Asahara was the mastermind were just verdicts.
"The argument by Asahara's defense that Inoue's testimony cannot be trusted is an excuse made in desperation. They have nothing left to argue with," he said. "Looking at the trials of the other senior cultists, we can only conclude that Asahara gave the orders."
On the other hand, Hiromi Shimada, a religious scholar knowledgeable about cults and new religions, said Aum never had a clear chain of command.
"Asahara being blind and all, I'm not sure things really went the way he had intended," Shimada said. "Looking at the haphazard way the cult carried out things, there was probably no concrete plan or clear objective. I would have to say that not just the disciples, but also Asahara had lost control."
Motives and objectives
Another theory prosecutors have touted is that Asahara had wanted to seize control of the government by winning Diet seats in the 1990 House of Representatives poll, making Aum the ruling party.
When no cultist was elected, he developed a strong hatred toward society and started to militarize the cult -- with a view to causing Armageddon and creating an Aum empire, the theory goes. The 1995 subway gas attack was an attempt to disrupt anticipated police raids on the cult, prosecutors said.
Asahara's counsel on the other hand said that he had calmly accepted the election loss, and that it was his disciples' paranoia, including Murai and Inoue, who came to believe they had to arm against their enemies, the United States and Freemasons, and against the arrival of Armageddon.
Lawyer Taro Takimoto, who has supported survivors of Aum's crimes and himself was a sarin target in 1994, believes Asahara was bent on destroying mankind due to a grudge stemming from his unfulfilled lust for power.
But journalist Yoshifu Arita, who has covered issues pertaining to religion and brainwashing, believes Asahara did not have such grandiose objectives and that Aum, while attempting to confound the police probe into the cult, escalated its crimes beyond the point of return.
"It probably went like this: first a cultist died in an accident in 1988. Because Aum was applying for status as a publicly authorized religious corporation and didn't want complications, its leaders decided to dispose of the body," Arita said.
"Then in 1989, cultist Shuji Taguchi attempted to defect. Because he knew about the 1988 accidental death, he had to be killed, becoming Aum's first real murder. Then lawyer Sakamoto started to make waves. He also needed to be gotten rid of. I think these haphazard actions, coupled with the cult's growing paranoia, brought on the disaster," he said.
Semantics of religion
Asahara's trial has witnessed arguments about how to interpret his orders. Even when he apparently was giving direct orders for the crimes, he never used terms like "kill" or "murder," and instead used poa.
Prosecutors said he used the word to order murders in at least six of the counts he is facing. They said he felt justified to poa people under the dangerous Tibetan Buddhist "Vajrayana" doctrine he had distorted, and his interpretation compelled his minions to obey him 100 percent.
Because a Vajrayana guru can look through all consequences and individual fate, an order to poa someone would not be considered an act of evil and would thus be a blessing for the victim, prosecutors said in quoting a 1987 Asahara sermon.
But Asahara's counsel dismissed this and claimed his disciples misinterpreted poa as meaning to kill.
Asahara preached about "perfect saints" who killed to bring the victim to a higher level, but it was just to explain the religious meaning of the killers' behavior, his lawyers argued.
Scholar Shimada believes Asahara used both meanings, depending on convenience. "But I think some of the disciples really believed they were doing a good deed when they killed someone, being so brainwashed," he said.
The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders on Saturday condemned China's recent jailing of five Falun Gong members for using the internet to publicise the abuse of one of the spiritual group's adherents.
The five, including the head of a technology company, were sentenced to between five and 14 years in prison on Thursday on charges of "libelling the government" by spreading "fabricated stories" in southwest China's Chongqing city.
The defendants had posted information online about the alleged ill-treatment in prison of a student member of the group, state media had reported.
They were among 22 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group currently behind bars for posting information on the internet, Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
The international press freedom organisation also called for the release of all 22 jailed Falun Gong members.
"The crackdown on members of this spiritual movement is completely unjustified," the organisation said in the statement.
"The five internet-users were convicted for posting online what is already very well known to human rights organisations, that members of Falun Gong are systematically tortured in prison."
In its verdict, the court said the report published online by the five Chongqing members "tarnished the image of the government".
Lu Zengqi, accused of writing the incriminating document, and Yan Qiuyan, who was said to have helped him, were both sentenced to 10 years in jail. Li Jian, who reportedly posted the article on a site run by the movement, got 13 years.
Chen Shumin, head of the company where Mr Lu worked, was jailed for 14 years. Yin Yan was sentenced to five years though no evidence was given of the part he played.
Other Falun Gong members have been jailed for creating an internet site about their group, or simply downloading and spreading news about the movement and repression of its members.
Chinese authorities block access to all sites that refer to the movement and bans discussion of the subject in online discussion forums.
The Falun Gong, banned as an "evil cult" by China since 1999, once claimed millions of followers on the mainland but has faced a tough crackdown by the government, which considers it one of the most serious threats to its rule.
Taiwanese members of the Falungong spiritual movement said Tuesday they would file a lawsuit against the French government for the "harassment and illegal arrest" of practitioners during demonstrations in Paris last month.
The group, outlawed in China as an "evil cult", said it was bullied by police as the French government sought to take a hard line against the peaceful demonstrators during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
"The French government should conduct a fair investigation, make public the truth, punish responsible officials and apologize to the affected Falungong practioners," they said in a statement.
The lawsuit would be handled by lawyers from eight countries including French lawyer L.L. Forster, and will be filed soon, it said.
Some 30 Taiwanese Falungong members and colleagues from overseas staged demonstrations during Hu's visit.
During a press conference Tuesday, the group played a videotape showing how they were "rudely" rounded up.
The group also delivered a protest to the French Institute in Taiwan, France's de facto embassy in Taipei.
"They were checked by French police on the streets just because they were wearing yellow scarves," said Chang Chin-Hwa, a spokeswoman for Taiwan Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong.
She added some members were arrested and questioned for two hours before being released.
Some 1,000 Falungong practitioners from across the globe, including 170 from Taiwan, had gathered in Paris late last month to condemn Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, for persecuting sect members in China.
Some members from Germany and Denmark, who were not involved in any violence, were also reported to have been harassed, Chang said.
Taiwan Falun Dafa is estimated to have 300,000 members.
China outlawed Falungong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an "evil cult" in mid-1999 and practitioners have subsequently faced often brutal repression.
The outlawed group claims at least 1,600 Falungong followers have been killed, 500 others illegally sentenced, 20,000 sent to re-education camps and 100,000 jailed.
Members of Taiwan's Falun Gong group Friday claimed French police had harassed and arrested practitioners as they mounted a peaceful demonstration in Paris during the visit there this week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The group outlawed by China as an "evil cult" demanded Taiwan's foreign ministry relay a strong protest to Paris over what it called an "unreasonable and unlawful" act infringing on the basic rights and freedom of its members.
"They were checked by French police on the streets just because they were wearing yellow scarves. The police could not give them any proper reasons, except (for) saying 'yellow scarves are illegal in France today'," Chang Chin-Hwa, a spokeswoman for Taiwan Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, told AFP.
She added some members were arrested and questioned for two hours before being released.
Some 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners from across the globe, including 170 from Taiwan, had gathered in Paris over the past week to condemn Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, for persecuting sect members in China.
Some members from Germany and Denmark, who were not involved in any violence, were also reported to have been harassed, Chang said.
"France has turned a blind eye to China's human rights violations but exercised pressure to infringe on the basic freedom of law-abiding people," she said.
"We want the French government to investigate why the police could make unwarrantable arrests and to apologise to Falun Gong members."
Taiwan Falun Dafa is estimated to have 300,000 members.
Earlier this month, the Falun Gong group in France also alleged they were barred from joining a parade on the Champs Elysees to celebrate Chinese New Year under pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Paris.
The Falun Gong protest in Paris came one day after Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian accused his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, of meddling in his government's internal affairs. It followed Chirac's description of Taiwan's plans to hold a referendum as a "grave mistake".
Taiwan has also cancelled two visits to Paris by cabinet officials in protest at Chirac's criticism made during Hu's visit.
China outlawed Falun Gong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an "evil cult" in mid-1999 and practitioners have subsequently faced often brutal repression.
The outlawed group claims at least 1,600 Falun Gong followers have been killed, 500 others illegally sentenced, 20,000 sent to re-education camps and 100,000 jailed.
Four members of the Falungong sect on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Paris against visiting Chinese culture minister Sun Jiazheng, citing "crimes of torture."
The members of the spiritual sect, which is banned in China, said in their suit that the minister had "via broadcasts in the press and on the Internet and via cultural demonstrations appealed for the elimination of people practising Falungong."
They said Sun should be prosecuted for "incitement to massacre and persecution," and called for his detention before his planned departure from France on Thursday.
Sun is a member of the ministerial delegation accompanying Chinese President Hu Jintao on a state visit to France. However a judicial official in Paris said he is covered by diplomatic immunity and there is no possibility of his being detained.
The four plaintiffs - a French woman and three Chinese men - said that since 1999 they had personally suffered arrest, arbitrary detention and torture in China because of their membership of Falungong.
"Whatever their practices, nothing can justify the persecution they were subjected to. My victims have taken the opportunity provided by Monsieur Sun's presence in France, knowing full well that they have no hope of prosecuting him in China," said their lawyer Emmanuelle Hauser-Phelizon.
The Buddhism-inspired Falungong group, which at one point claimed millions of followers in China, has been outlawed as an "evil cult" since 1999 when it organised a mass demonstration in Beijing.
It claims that more than 1,600 of its members have been killed since the government crackdown drove the organisation underground.
On Sunday some 650 Falungong members and human rights activists protested in Paris against Hu's state visit, which started Monday. The organisation also complained it had been stopped from taking part in a Chinese new year parade on the Champs Elysees on Saturday.
On Tuesday Hu signed a joint declaration with President Jacques Chirac which included a commitment to "promote and protect human rights in line with the United Nations Charter, by respecting the universality of these rights."
In October a Belgian prosecutor threw out a lawsuit by the Falungong movement against Hu's predecessor Jiang Zemin, which cited genocide and crimes against humanity. The prosecutor said that the alleged offences did not constitute crimes against humanity.
In a rare televised appearance, Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi said Wednesday that Beijing cracked down on the meditation group because government leaders envied its popularity.
China replied by calling Li a dangerous criminal whose Falun Gong "cult" must be stopped.
Mainland China outlawed Falun Gong in 1999 as a threat to communist rule, but Li said the group -- which has attracted millions of followers -- has never been interested in challenging the government.
"The Chinese leaders couldn't tolerate so many people practicing Falun Gong," Li said in an interview with a New York-based television station that apparently has close ties to Falun Gong. "It's a form of jealousy. This jealousy led to the oppression."
Speaking calmly and eloquently, Li also criticized former President Jiang Zemin, saying "the most evil person in China" ordered Beijing's campaign against Falun Gong.
"The whole world can see his stupidity, his cruelty," Li said, though he did not mention Jiang by name.
Falun Gong says hundreds of its mainland followers have been killed in police custody. China has denied abuse.
Beijing responded to Li's comments with strong language of its own.
"Falun Gong is a cult," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to questions from The Associated Press. "Li Hongzhi is the head of the cult, and he is a criminal who is wanted by Chinese public security. The evil theories that Li Hongzhi is disseminating lead to self-damage and suicide."
Beijing accused Falun Gong of causing "serious damage to Chinese society" and said the government's "legal ban on Falun Gong is intended to protect the basic human rights and freedom of the Chinese system and to uphold its constitution and laws."
Chinese state media did not carry footage of Li. Satellite dishes are outlawed in mainland China, but nonetheless are owned by millions of people. Since Li's appearance was carried by satellite TV, it likely was seen in mainland China, if only in southern areas near Hong Kong.
The 52-year-old Li, a former mainland grain bureau clerk, lives in the United States and seldom appears in public.
Li was interviewed on the New Tang Dynasty Television station, based in New York, in a broadcast monitored in Hong Kong via satellite by a small group of Falun Gong followers. They called the show inspirational.
"I'm very happy to see my teacher. He looks very benevolent," said Yeung Sau-ling, who is in her 40s and has practiced Falun Gong for more than four years.
"Our teacher has spoken out for all of us. We shouldn't be oppressed," said a tearful practitioner who identified herself only by her surname, Liu.
Hong Kong-based Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said the New Tang Dynasty station is independent. But some Falun Gong followers are affiliated with it, and a message on the station's Web site says "the issue of Falun Gong will help to unite the Chinese people all over the world with a bond of peace and freedom."
Li insisted his teachings -- which draw from Buddhism, Taoism and his own doctrines -- are benign.
"I walked the righteous path and people responded positively," Li said. He said Falun Gong has no big interest in politics.
"We take power very lightly," Li said. "We never wanted to seize power from the Communist government. We just wanted to keep practicing according to our spiritual beliefs."
Although Beijing is trying to stamp out Falun Gong, the group remains legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony that enjoys Western-style freedoms under Chinese rule.
Falun Gong followers in Hong Kong are often seen performing their slow-motion exercises at protests against China's suppression.
Followers of the Falungong group have been barred from joining a parade on Paris' famed Champs Elysees avenue to mark Chinese New Year celebrations, the organisation said in a statement.
"Following pressure from the Chinese embassy, the organisers of the Chinese New Year celebrations have refused to authorise the Association France Falungong to join the parade," the statement said.
The Falungong group, which at one point claimed millions of followers in China, has been banned as an "evil cult" by Beijing since 1999.
"Despite repeated demands, (Paris) police authorities have refused to allow Falungong to stage its own parade in an acceptable location and conditions.
"The French motto includes the word 'equality'. We wish that the French authorities would put this into practice," the text added.
Paris is to mark Chinese New Year with an elaborate show involving 54 floats, 12 giant totems and 7,500 performers who will parade up the Champs Elysees on January 24.
Falungong, which claims millions of followers worldwide, was at one point viewed by Chinese leaders as one of the most serious threats to their rule.
The group claims that more than 1,600 of its members have been tortured or beaten to death in China since a crackdown ordered four years ago largely drove the organisation underground.
The Home Ministry has issued a final warning letter to the Falun Gong sect in the country, ordering it to stop interfering in China's internal affairs or face the consequences.
Sin Chew Daily, in an interview with Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung, reported that the ministry had been monitoring the sect's website and observed that the sect here wanted to use Malaysia as a launching pad to go against the Chinese Government.
"Their news on the website stating that the organisation had received approval from the Registrar of Societies are also false," he said.
He warned that if the situation persisted, police would have no choice but to take action against them.
He added that the ministry had been very sympathetic and understanding towards the sect in Malaysia.
"If the sect is solely about learning kung fu, we will allow them to continue but their website showed that they are trying to get involved in the Chinese Government's politics," he added.
Chor stressed that the Government's stand was very clear - it would not interfere in the internal politics of other governments nor would it allow organisations in the country to do so.
In the relentless official Chinese suppression of Falun Gong, the outlawed spiritual sect, Sam Lu counts his wife as one tiny but significant victory. After more than three years in a labor camp, Zhou Xuefei was released Tuesday.
"I am very proud of my wife," Lu said in a statement. "My wife is brave, because she was jailed for standing up to defend the right of the millions of persecuted Falun Gong practitioners in China."
Lu, a former warehouse manager living in Duluth, campaigned tirelessly for her release, writing countless letters and petitions and attending protests.
Yet Tuesday brought only a measure of relief. He was informed that his wife was home with her mother in Shenzhen, but he couldn't speak to her. Their home number was changed unexpectedly, and it seemed international calls were blocked.
Lu's mother-in-law picked up her daughter Tuesday at the Sanshui Women's Labor Camp outside Guangzhou, accompanied by Shenzhen police. In Shenzhen they were met by members of the local neighborhood committee, the grass-roots Communist Party body that will monitor Lu's wife.
His wife dropped in to visit Lu's parents, who also live in Shenzhen, for about half an hour.
"My father said she seemed to be in good spirits," Lu said.
Lu said the phones of both his parents and his mother-in-law, Zhou Jie, are tapped.
"She is very happy," Zhou Jie said by telephone. "She has no plans. She's going to rest. Then we're going to celebrate the new year."
The Chinese lunar new year begins January 22.
Falun Gong practitioners are generally not released until they have undergone a "transformation." The group calls it brainwashing, but the Chinese government says it is freeing members from the yoke of an evil cult.
A spokesman at the Sanshui Women's Labor Camp said Zhou had "basically" transformed but refused to answer further questions.
Lu, 34, and Zhou, 29, were living together in Shenzhen, where he was a tax auditor, and had been married less than two months when she was detained for handing out Falun Gong pamphlets.
Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk now living in the United States. His unorthodox practice mixed Buddhism with slow-motion calisthenics.
The collapse of China's free medical system and traditional social structures gave a large boost to the group's popularity as people sought alternative health regimens and spiritual solace. Falun Gong claimed to have attracted 100 million practitioners by the time it was outlawed in 1999.
Although the crackdown on Falun Gong was viewed in the West as an issue of religious freedom, for the Communist Party it was a matter of political control. Falun Gong and other forms of qigong -- a form of martial arts based on the concept of internal energy -- had long been encouraged. It was only when Falun Gong amassed such a large number of followers that the Communist Party became alarmed. An all-out propaganda war then was unleashed against the "evil cult."
The group says 860 followers have died as a result of persecution. It says it has documented thousands of cases of physical and mental torture.
The Chinese government says Falun Gong has caused the death of 1,600 people, most of whom it says committed suicide or died after refusing medical care.
Three citizens of the Republic of Korea (ROK) were deported Tuesday for their illegal activities of the banned Falun Gong cult, sources with the Chinese judicial authorities said.
Nam Sang Sik (male, 49, Passport No. DG0932956), Pak Chang Kuk (male, 48, Passport No. GR2363496) and Ahn Suk Chul (male, 53, Passport No. BS1292385) were detained according to the Chinese law on Jan. 10 and 11, 2004 respectively and deported Tuesday, said the sources. The three were also banned from entering China again within five years.
Judicial investigation showed that Nam and Pak, after their entry into China, had instigated Falun Gong followers in China to sabotage local radio, television broadcast and telecommunications facilities and had plotted sabotage activities during the upcomingSpring Festival holidays, or the Chinese Lunar New Year. They also provided funds and foreign-made equipment for the sabotage plan aswell as for other criminal activities of the Falun Gong cult.
Ahn, who entered China recently along with Li Guangchun (male, 34, identity paper No. 9410515008887103), had released illicit publications and conducted other secret activities relating to theFalun Gong cult.
The three ROK nationals had confessed to their illegal activities in China during the detention and judicial investigation, and were admonished by the Chinese judicial authorities according to law before the deportation, sources said.
Li, whose identity is yet to be verified, remains under detention for further investigation by the judicial organs, sources added.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne
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