CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions directed by Massimo Introvigne

"Ex-diplomat helps Falun Gong court case"

("AAP," July 18, 2005 )

Canberrs, Australia - A former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia is helping the Falun Gong movement in a court case against Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
The movement is taking action in the ACT Supreme Court in a bid to lift restrictions on their protests outside the Chinese embassy in Canberra.
The group accuses Mr Downer of signing certificates which ban the use of large banners and musical instruments by protesters demonstrating against the Chinese government's abuse of Falun Gong practitioners.
The case was the subject of a directions hearing in the court and lawyers later revealed former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin had provided evidence for the case.
"Chen Yonglin has given an affidavit in these proceedings, I'm not free to say any more," lawyer Bernard Collaery said outside the court.
Mr Chen was granted a permanent protection visa this month, six weeks after abandoning his post at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney.
He claims there is a network of 1,000 Chinese spies operating in Australia and their duties include monitoring Falun Gong.
The spiritual movement is banned in China.
Falun Gong last week denied it was bankrolling Mr Chen to speak at functions organised by the movement.
One of the two plaintiffs in the case, Zhang Cuiying, told more than 100 Falun Gong practitioners protesting outside the court that the certificates signed by Mr Downer limit freedom of speech.
"The purpose of our holding banners in front of the Chinese embassy is to let the 1.3 billion Chinese know the truth and the facts about the persecution of Falun Gong," she said through a translator.
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop further certificates being issued that restrict protests.
The matter will return to the ACT Supreme Court on August 1.

"Falun Gong deny bankrolling Chen"

("AAP," July 13, 2005)

Sydney, Australia - Defecting Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin has only been receiving basic assistance from the Falun Gong meditation movement, the leader of a Chinese pro-democracy group says.
Federation for a Democratic China leader Chin Jin said Mr Chen, who was granted an Australian permanent protection visa after defecting from the Chinese consulate in Sydney in May, was likely to be living largely off his savings.
Reports in New Ltd papers said Mr Chen was bankrolled by Falun Gong to speak at functions organised by the movement, which is banned in China.
But Mr Chin said Falun Gong was only providing Chen with food and accommodation, as if he and his family were guests.
"Chen Yonglin is staying in a place where the accommodation is provided by the Falun Gong people, I would say this is not wrong, but financially funded, I don't think so," Mr Chin said.
Mr Chin said Chen would have his own money, earned during his four-year tenure as political affairs attache at China's consulate in Sydney.
"I don't think he was penniless before he defected," he said.
"On the first day I met him, on June 4, he paid the taxi driver the fare from his own pocket, I didn't see Falun Gong pay him anything."
Mr Chen, who left the consulate over the persecution of Falun Gong members and other political dissidents by the Chinese government, has claimed China had a network of 1,000 spies in Australia.
Falun Gong spokesman Grant Lu said it was against Falun Gong's teachings to give someone money for political purposes.
"Our teachings say anyone making money from Falun Gong is not a Falun Gong member," he said.
"Anyone who uses Falun Gong for political purposes is not a Falun Gong member.
"That is not the role of a Falun Gong practitioner."
The group had no money but members looked after people in need out of their own pocket under their principles of truth, compassion and tolerance, Mr Lu said.
"Falun Gong could not pay him, we don't have a bank account," he said.
Mr Chin said he did not think Mr Chen, his wife Jing Ping and their six-year-old daughter had lived extravagantly over the past month, but since being granted a permanent protection visa he could now find a job or apply for the dole.

"Broadcaster says Falun Gong sent pirate TV signals"

(Reuters, July 04, 2005)

Hong Kong, China - A Hong Kong-based satellite operator accused the Falun Gong spiritual group, banned in China as an "evil cult," on Monday of hacking into one of its satellites to illegally beam transmissions into mainland China.
A Falun Gong spokeswoman in Hong Kong said she did not know anything about the hacking attack, saying such an act would be technically and financially beyond the group's means.
APT Satellite Holdings Ltd. said the Falun Gong illegally beamed a transmission on Sunday into mainland China, interfering and interrupting normal broadcasting of more than two dozen of nationwide and provincial television channels.
Officials at APT declined to say what material was illegally broadcast but that about 15 minutes of programing was interrupted and an image was illegally broadcast on TV screens in China for about four seconds.
Previous pirated signals have shown believers practising Falun Gong and their spiritual leader Li Hongzhi talking.
Beijing banned the Falun Gong in 1999 after 10,000 members besieged the compound of the Chinese leadership in the capital to demand official recognition of their faith.
In the past two years, China has repeatedly accused Falun Gong of hijacking satellite signals to disrupt state media broadcasts.
A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for the Falun Gong, Sophie Xiao, denied that the group had anything to do with the incident or others like it. "I would question why they keep saying it is Falun Gong's act," she said.
APT said the illegal jamming of APTSTAR VI caused damage to the APT Group and affected its reputation. "We strongly denounce such an illegal act," Chen Zhaobin, executive director and president of APT Satellite, told a news conference.
Hong Kong and New York-listed APT said it had reported the case to the Hong Kong police and reserved the right to take further legal action.
The Falun Gong movement remains legal in Hong Kong, which has been a special administration region of China since 1997, when the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule.

"Malaysia freezes circulation of pro-Falun Gong newspaper printed in Indonesia"

(AP, July 01, 2005)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Malaysia has frozen the distribution of an Indonesian-printed newspaper that supports the spiritual movement Falun Gong and is critical of China's communist policies, officials said Friday.
Authorities seized about 17,000 copies of the Chinese-language weekly Epoch Times' June issue and told the distributor, DZY Marketing, to halt further imports, DZY spokesman Raymond Ng said.
"The government has not given a reason for taking such a move," Ng told The Associated Press.
He claimed the Chinese Embassy asked authorities to stop the circulation of Epoch Times in Malaysia. Embassy officials did not immediately respond to the allegation.
Epoch Times is published in several countries and distributed free. It was started in May 2000 "in response to the growing need for uncensored coverage of events in China," the paper says on its Web site.
DZY Marketing began importing the Southeast Asian edition from the Indonesian province of Surabaya in February 2004.
A senior government official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, confirmed that Epoch Times' latest edition was banned "pending our detailed study on its contents." He did not elaborate.
The Falun Gong group _ which China has labeled a dangerous cult _ has attracted millions of practitioners with a mix of slow-motion exercise and Buddhist and Taoist teachings.
It accuses Beijing of persecuting and torturing its followers both on the mainland and in Hong Kong.
Ng said the newspaper had received a "good response" from the ethnic Chinese community in Malaysia and appealed to the government to review the ban.
A letter urging the lifting of the ban was sent to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday, he said.
Separately Friday, a court set the trial of nine leaders of the Malaysian chapter of Falun Gong for Nov. 15.
Seven men and two women, all Malaysians from the nonprofit Falun Dafa Research Center Berhad, pleaded innocent to six charges of technical breaches, including failure to submit minutes and annual returns or to keep a members' register. The group says the charges are politically motivated.

"Falun Gong members claim harassment in Australia"

("Australian Broadcasting Corporation," June 20, 2005)

Canberra, Australia - Falun Gong members have told a protest at Parliament House they have been repeatedly denied visas to China because of their involvement with the practice.
The protest comes a day after Canadian Falun Gong practitioners demanded their Government stop Chinese officials monitoring members in Canada.
Today, practitioners urged the Federal Government to investigate what they have called the harassment of their members in Australia.
Australian citizen Grant Lu says he has been monitored by Chinese officials and has been refused permission to travel to China because he practices Falun Gong.
"I'm [an] Australian citizen, but still in Australia, [it's] not safe - it's a big problem," he said.

"Falun Gong protests against Chinese spies in Australia and restrictions on demonstrations"

(AP, June 10, 2005)

Canberra, Australia - Followers of the spiritual group Falun Gong said Friday they were being persecuted by Chinese spies in Australia and called on the government to do more to protect them.
Members of the group backed claims by a defecting Chinese diplomat that a 1,000-strong spy network was operating in Australia and targeting groups such as Falun Gong, which was outlawed in China in 1999.
About 40 mostly Chinese-born Falun Gong practitioners, protesting outside the Supreme Court in the national capital Canberra, also filed a legal challenge against a government ban on their protests outside the Chinese Embassy.
Chinese immigrant Zhang Cui Ying, who lodged the legal action, said Chinese government spies had damaged her car on several occasions and had thrown a dying cat into the yard of her Sydney home in February.
"Even my neighbor found out that there are people watching our every movement so our lives are in fear and disturbed,'' Zhang, 42, said through an interpreter.
"I hope that the Australian government ... will clear out the spies and protect the peaceful environment for Australian people,'' she added.
Chen Yonglin, a consul for political affairs at China's Consulate-General in Sydney, approached immigration officials on May 26, handing them a letter in which he said he would rather die than return home and hinting he could turn over sensitive Chinese documents.
Despite the offer, Australia, which counts China as its third-largest trading partner, rejected Chen's initial request for asylum and he is now applying for a temporary visa usually granted to boat people fleeing persecution.
Senior Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday that Chen would not be sent back to China. But Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, who might ultimately decide Chen's fate, refused to comment on the case Friday.
Falun Gong practitioner Geoff Gregory, a British-born Australian citizen, said he believed Chen's claim of a 1,000-strong spy network, which the Chinese government has dismissed as a fabrication.
"I've got no doubt that that's true,'' Gregory, a Sydney nurse, said at the protest. "Us Falun Gong practitioners, we have been persecuted by these people here in Australia.''
The protesters have launched a legal challenge of the government's ban on banners and amplified music being used by protesters outside the Chinese Embassy near Parliament House.
The ban has been enforced by police for 39 months. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has been signing monthly certificates under an international convention that limits Falun Gong's demonstrations in order to protect the "dignity'' of the embassy.
Protest spokeswoman Kay Rubacek said Australia was the only democratic country to use such certificates against peaceful protesters.
Downer's spokeswoman said it would not be appropriate to comment while legal action was before the court.

"Buddha in a suit"

by John Kerin ("The Australian," June 09, 2005)

Sydney, Australia - LI Hongzhi, a former grain store clerk and trumpet player in a police band, looks like a typical successful businessman: well-groomed and smartly dressed.
But as far as the Chinese Government is concerned, the self-styled Buddha in a suit is the devil incarnate, enticing millions of people worldwide to follow him with promises of inner peace on earth.
Li, 52, is the founder of Falun Gong, an organisation that the Chinese Communist Party, which is suspicious of all religious groups, has sought to brutally suppress since it was outlawed in 1999 after a silent protest involving 10,000 followers in Tiananmen Square.
Li became China's most wanted man, accused of spreading "superstition and fallacies to deceive people, resulting in the deaths of practitioners". The wanted notice described Li as 1.78m and of heavy build, "with slanted eyebrows and single-fold eyelids".
But by this time Li had fled into exile in New York, where his message continued to attract devotees and millions of dollars in sales of his books, including Zhuan Falun, which sells for $39.95 in Australia.
Although Falun Gong has the appearance of a martial art, Li's wacky ideas make it sound like a cult.
Li believes he is a being from a higher level who has come to help save humankind from the destruction it could face as the result of rampant evil; that aliens walk the earth and are responsible for, among other things, aeroplanes and computers; that he can float through walls and become invisible.
Even Li's date of birth is controversial, with Chinese officials claiming he backdated it a few months so he could share it with Buddhism's founder, Sakyamuni.
Beijing has accused him of stopping people from seeking medical treatment, resulting in the deaths of thousands of followers, and that he has embezzled millions of dollars, claims vehemently rejected by Li.
There is little doubt that Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in China in "re-education through labour" camps as well as in prisons and mental hospitals. Amnesty International puts the figure at tens of thousands, and the US State Department suggests the death toll through torture and abuse is 500.
Falun Gong claims to have verified more than 1400 deaths, with the toll possibly as high as 10,000.
The practice of Falun Gong is similar to Tai Chi, its aim being to improve the body and mind through exercises and meditation. It draws loosely on elements of Buddhism and Taoism and the movement claims to have 60 million to 80million followers worldwide.
The most public manifestation of Falun Gong is the practice of a range of five exercises related to the ancient Chinese art of qigong, a kind of breathing meditation. Accompanied by special Falun Gong music, followers perform routines with names such as Buddha Showing a Thousand Hands and Falun Gong Way to Heavenly Circulation.
Falun Gong and its leader, who visited Australia in 1996, have been thrust into the spotlight following claims by two Chinese defectors who are seeking political asylum in Australia that Beijing has an extensive spy network here and that it monitors and even kidnaps adherents and takes them to jails or re-education centres in China.
The claims have been dismissed as slanderous and untrue by the Chinese foreign ministry.
The question is, why does the Chinese Communist Party feel so threatened by an organisation that peddles wacky ideas and runs martial arts classes?
It may seem absurd to outsiders, but charismatic religious groups have sparked political uprisings throughout Chinese history.
The avowedly atheistic Chinese Communist Party has learned the lessons of history. In the mid-1800s, a man who claimed to be Jesus' brother led a revolt in a civil war that killed millions. In 1900, the so-called Boxers - a qigong cult that believed its exercises made members impervious to bullets -- rose up in an attempt to expel foreigners.
Several sources refused to speak publicly to The Australian about Falun Gong because they feared China would retaliate by refusing them entry into the country.
"The Chinese Government fears Falun Gong because many rebellions in Chinese history have had their origins in spiritual movements," a senior North Asia expert told The Australian last night.
"Falun Gong's rapid growth and ability to organise protests in the lead-up to 1999 simply spooked the Communist Party. I guess also Falun Gong's vigils outside Chinese embassies around the world are an affront to the Communist Party's pride. But in overreacting, the Communist Party has created a large headache for itself."
While denying this week that Chinese spies are kidnapping Falun Gong members, China's ambassador to Australia, Fu Ying, says monitoring the activities of Falun Gong protesters outside Chinese embassies and consulates in Australia is routine.
Speaking of defector Chen Yonglin's claim that his role was to spy on Falun Gong protesters, Fu says she does not believe that was his job.
"But if he wants to photograph them [Falun Gong members], I think it's quite normal," she says. "If they came to protest in front of the Sydney consulate-general, [we would need to] to notify the Australian police."
ASIO has warned Chinese diplomats not to overstep their official roles to intimidate Falun Gong practitioners.
At the same time, however, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has taken action to curb their music and banners at protests outside China's embassy and consulates as part of his role in protecting the dignity of foreign missions.
Founded as recently as 1992, Li Hongzhi's homespun philosophy quickly attracted millions of adherents.
Alien beliefs notwithstanding, there is no evidence Falun Gong is dangerous in the manner of the Branch Davidians, who committed mass suicide when raided by police in the US in 1993, or Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, which was responsible for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Li claims that Falun Gong does not allow donations or fundraising activities. He preaches that if a person wants to give a seminar or a class, they should finance it out of their own pocket.
However, it is believed Falun Gong draws generous funding from a range of organisations concerned about human rights in China, particularly in the US as well as from pro-democracy supporters in Taiwan.
According to a New York Post report, Li also became wealthy through the sale of millions of his books and tapes, particularly Zhuan Falun, which includes a short biography.
Zhuan Falun was listed as the 14th most influential book in Australia in a recent poll conducted by the ABC. (Wuthering Heights was at No.13 and one book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series came in at No.15.)
Repression of religious movements in China is not restricted to Falun Gong: it extends to followers of Islam, Christianity and other faiths.
A multi-faith Christian group called Tears of the Oppressed has told an Australian parliamentary inquiry into Australia's relationship with China that up to 100 million Christian believers are at risk of persecution because of their religious convictions.
The group's national director Elizabeth Scott says there are only two legalised churches in China, the Three Self Patriotic Movement and the Catholic Patriotic Association.
"The teachings of these churches are strictly controlled by the Government, which has the right to appoint church leaders," she says.
"Teachings are often in conflict with traditional biblical Christianity and most Christians in China refuse to belong to official churches."
Scott says many Christians are forced to hold services and prayer meetings in their homes, which are known as house churches. But these were considered a threat to the Communist Party's beliefs, with house members frequently arrested, tortured and sent to the labour camps.

"Sect members 'tortured', second defector says"

(AAP, June 08, 2005)

Melbourne, Australia - A former security officer has become the second Chinese official to seek asylum in Australia, deepening the dilemma for the Australian Government and creating a fresh embarrassment for Beijing.
The man says he fled his job because he saw evidence that colleagues were torturing members of banned religious sect Falun Gong.
And he has backed claims by former diplomat Chen Yonglin that China operates a spy network in Australia - claims angrily denounced today by the Chinese Government.
Mr Chen remains in hiding with his wife and six-year-old daughter after fleeing his job at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney.
Greens senator Bob Brown has written to the NSW Police Minister Carl and Commissioner seeking police protection for Mr Chen.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today that Mr Chen had failed to put in a formal bid for political asylum when he first defected, but said in any case, Australia rarely granted such applications.
Hao Feng Jun, 32, said he started out as a policeman before being transferred to the security service known as 6-10, which he said was specifically set up to wipe out Falun Gong.
"I had to go to the place where they'd detained a Falun Gong follower,'' he told ABC's Lateline.
"When we got there she had two huge black bruises on her back and two cuts on her back about 20 centimetres long.
"One policeman was using a half-metre length of metal bar to beat her. When I saw this I knew I couldn't do this work,'' he said.
Mr Hao Feng Jun, 32, who says he worked as a security officer in Tianjin in China's north, backed Mr Chen's claims that China has a large spy network operating overseas, numbering about 1000 in Australia.
"They spend out businessmen and students out to overseas countries as spies,'' he said. "I worked in the police office in the security bureau and I believe that what Mr Chen says is true.''
Mr Hao said he has seen evidence spies infiltrate groups like Falun Gong overseas, including Australia, and collect information on their members to be sent back to China.
His bureau in Tianjin received money from the Chinese Government, which was used to pay for spies to gather information about Falun Gong and other dissident groups, as well as military and business groups, he said.
Mr Hao applied for political asylum in February while in Australia as a tourist and said he was currently on a bridging visa.
"If I go back to China, there's no doubt the communist Government will certainly persecute me. They know I have confidential information - some of it top secret - and I'll be severely punished,'' he said.
Mr Hao said such persecution was common, saying he was locked up for more than 20 days for claiming the Chinese media was fabricating stories against Falun Gong.
Brainwashing and torture were methods of ``re-educating'' people in forced labour camps, he said.
"First you will be sent to a brainwashing centre, and if they are not reformed they are sent to forced labour camps,'' he told the independent online newspaper, The Epoch Times.
"There are no human rights whatsoever in these forced labour camps.
"It's pretty common in forced labour camps to use torture methods... Almost every forced labour camp uses torture methods.''
Meanwhile, the Chinese Government has attacked the claims of its former trusted first secretary, saying Mr Chen had no evidence for his allegations.
"The rumours spread by Chen Yonglin are total slander,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing.
"These rumours are detrimental to China-Australia relations.''
Liu did not provide any more details about Chen's case but said it would be handled "according to Chinese law.''
Chinese diplomats say Mr Chen fabricated the allegations because he does not want to return home.
His claims have cast a shadow over Canberra's attempts to negotiate a free trade deal with China.
China and Australia have been developing their trade relationship in recent years as Australian miners pour billions of dollars worth of raw materials and fuel into the surging Chinese economy.
The free-trade deal, both sides say, would be worth billions more.

"Spies watch, bug Falun Gong: claim"

by Andra Jackson ("The Age," June 08, 2005)

Melbourne, Australia - Chinese embassy spies have followed Falun Gong practitioners in Australia, bugged their phones and broken into their homes to sabotage their activities, it was claimed yesterday.
Ana C. Vereshaka, spokeswoman for the Falun Dafa Information Centre in Melbourne, said her house in Balwyn had been broken into and flyers and pamphlets for a Falun Gong event taken.
Ms Vereshaka said practitioners were regularly photographed when they demonstrated outside the Chinese consulate in Melbourne every Sunday. "There is no doubt they have long files on us and we think that every meeting we have is probably bugged," she said.
Members recently had to change their mobile numbers after they were simultaneously bombarded with a series of text and voice messages vilifying Falun Gong. The interference was reported to the Federal Police and ASIO.
Ms Vereshaka said the constant surveillance was disturbing and vast resources were devoted to it. In one instance, a practitioner visiting China was called before a government security body and had "their every movement" in Melbourne recounted back to them.
A Sydney Falun Gong practitioner, Jane Dai, had had to move after a man was seen standing outside her house at nights, she said.
Ms Dai has filed a number of civil suits against the Chinese Government over the death of her husband in China in 2001. He had spoken out against the persecution of Falun Gong members.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy last night dismissed the practitioners' claims. "Where is the proof?" she asked.
"Falun Gong is really a cult in China and they do a lot of bad things," she said. But in Australia it was up to the Government and police to deal with them, not the embassy, she said.

"Nine Falun Gong organization directors plead not guilty in a Malaysian court case"

(AP, May 31, 2004)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Leaders of the Malaysian chapter of the Falun Gong spirtual movement were charged Tuesday with breaching corporate laws in what the group claims is an effort to stop it from highlighting the abuse of fellow practitioners in China.
The seven men and two women, all Malaysians from the nonprofit Falun Dafa Research Center Berhad _ registered as a private company in 2003 _ pleaded not guilty to six charges filed against them by Malaysia's Companies Commission for technical breaches including failure to submit minutes and annual returns or to keep a members' register.
The nine Falun Gong directors, in a statement, charged they were taken to court to "stop us from continuing the highlight the blatant abuse and ill-treatment of our fellow practitioners in China." They appealed to the government to ensure their freedom of expression.
Defense counsel Edmund Bon alleged the organization was being singled out by the government, noting that the charges were "highly unreasonable" because the offenses were minor and fairly common in other companies in the country.
The Falun Gong group - which China has labeled a dangerous cult - has attracted millions of practitioners with a mix of slow-motion exercise and Buddhist and Taoist teachings. It often accuses Beijing of persecuting and torturing its followers both on the mainland and in Hong Kong.
The Malaysian chapter of the movememt had earlier been fined 2,050 ringgit (US$540; €433) for the six offenses and Bon said it was unusual for the directors to also be prosecuted for the same infractions. He said the group had chosen to fight the case in court rather than pay an additional fine of a total 43,650 ringgit (US$11,490; €9,213).
"Before this persecution there were threats by the Companies Commission to wind up (the group) on various grounds, and one of the grounds was national security," Bon told reporters outside a magistrate's court in Kuala Lumpur.
He said the threat was dropped after members wrote in to explain that activities including exercise sessions were not "prejudicial to the wellbeing of the nation." The organization's bid to be registered as a society in Malaysia had previously been rejected three times without reason.
The court hearing has been postponed to July 1.

"Hong Kong printer agrees to keep Falun Gong-linked newspaper running for two more months"

(AP, May 18, 2005)

Hong Kong, China - A newspaper linked to the Falun Gong spiritual group said Wednesday that it has found a new printer willing to keep the publication running for another two months, despite fears that doing so could offend China.
Last week the former printer of The Epoch Times _ which frequently criticizes Beijing and employs Falun Gong followers _ said it would print its last edition of the newspaper last Friday.
Amy Chu, a spokeswoman for the newspaper, said Wednesday that one of its readers had agreed to print the newspaper for another two months starting from Monday. The newspaper runs five days a week from Monday to Friday, so there was no break in production, she said.
The temporary printer was fearful of committing to a longer print run, Chu said.
The newspaper had difficulty finding a long-term printer as many expressed fears that taking on the publication may offend China's Communist leadership, which outlawed Falun Gong as an "evil cult" on the mainland in 1999.
But the group, which has attracted millions of practitioners with a mix of slow-motion exercise and Buddhist and Taoist teachings, remains legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Falun Gong often accuses Beijing of persecuting and torturing its followers on the mainland. It also alleges that China is extending its crackdown on the group in Hong Kong.
Chu said the paper's last printer did not mention that it came under direct pressure from Beijing.

"Hong Kong printer drops newspaper linked to Falun Gong over fears of offending China"

(AP, May 11, 2005)

Hong Kong, China - A Hong Kong printer will stop publishing a newspaper linked to the Falun Gong spiritual group over fears that it may offend China, the newspaper said Wednesday, sparking worries about censorship in this former British colony now ruled by Beijing.
The printer for The Epoch Times newspaper gave notice in March that it will stop churning out copies of the daily on Saturday, breaking a one-year contract signed in January, Epoch Times spokeswoman Amy Chu said. Chu declined to identify the printer.
She said the publication, which is critical of China and counts Falun Gong followers among its staff, hasn't been able to find another printer in Hong Kong, a vibrant newspaper town that has at least a dozen papers.
The Epoch Times said the decision to stop printing the paper came under "an environment of 'self-discipline' and self-preservation now common in Hong Kong society."
Chu said the printer did not mention direct pressure from Beijing.
News of The Epoch Times' plight came as the deputy director of China's liaison office in Hong Kong attacked Falun Gong, which is banned as an "evil cult" in the mainland.
"The Falun Gong has long staged sit-ins and protests at the entrance of the liaison office. Now they're still fixated on attacking the central government and national leaders. I think everyone is disgusted with this," Li Gang said Wednesday.
Falun Gong, which combines slow-motion exercise with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, remains legal in Hong Kong, a British territory that returned to China in 1997 with promises of Western-style civil liberties.
But Falun Gong believes China is extending its crackdown on the group to Hong Kong.
Such fears were aggravated when the Hong Kong government charged followers who demonstrated outside the Chinese liaison office with obstructing and assaulting police. They were convicted, but successfully appealed.
Beijing has arrested at least hundreds of Falun Gong followers in China. The group alleges many have been tortured and in some cases murdered.

"Indonesia jails six Falun Gong activists"

("Xinhuanet," May 09, 2005)

Jakarta, Indonesia - The South Jakarta District Court on Monday sentenced six Falun Gong activists to jail with the term ranging from two months to two-and-a-half months.
Judge Herman Allo Sitandi said the six were guilty of "disturbing public order" and for "making a public gathering at the restricted green lane area."
The Falun Gong activists were arrested when staging a rally in front of the Chinese embassy on April 25.

"Hong Kong court acquits eight Falungong members of protest charges"

(AFP, May 05, 2005)

Hong Kong, China - Hong Kong's highest court quashed criminal convictions against eight Falungong sect members, ending a high-profile legal battle seen as a test of free speech in the Chinese territory.
The Court of Final appeal Thursday acquitted the eight, who had initially been convicted along with eight other members of the controversial spiritual movement for assaulting and obstructing police during a rally three years ago.
The court said police had no reasonable grounds to make the arrests, adding that the right to protest was protected under the constitution adopted when the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Lawyer for those appealing, John Clancey, hailed the decision as a victory for freedom of speech.
"This is a good judgement not only for the Falungong but it says very clearly that the police cannot just take people away if they are causing an obstruction while holding a peaceful protest," Clancey told AFP after the hearing.
The headline-grabbing protest outside the Chinese government's local office in 2002 became a cause celebre for rights campaigners here who accused police of crushing the demonstration on the orders of officials inside.
It came amid claims China was putting pressure on the local government to suppress the movement in Hong Kong, where members are free to gather.
All 16 protesters were originally convicted and sentenced to pay fines for a range of charges, including assaulting and obstructing police and obstructing the public.
Half were acquitted in November when convictions for obstructing the public were quashed on appeal.
Although the protest had been peaceful, participants - who included a New Zealander and four Swiss nationals - had carried banners declaring former Chinese president Jiang Zemin a killer and attacking mainland authorities.
Clancey said the ruling upheld people's rights to criticise their leaders.
"It is very clear that even if people are saying things that are very unpopular they still have a right to do that," he said.
The Falungong once claimed millions of followers in mainland China but has been outlawed as an "evil cult" by Beijing since 1999.
The group claims that at least 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 sect's Hong Kong spokeswoman Sophie Xiao praised the court's ruling and vowed the movement would continue to protest against China's suppression of its members.
"We have been victimised but this gives us the confidence to carry on," Xiao told AFP. "We will continue our daily practice and begin now to raise awareness of the atrocities and the persecution of our members in China."

"Two Falungong women released" by Ansley Ng

("TODAYonline," May 04, 2005)

Singapore, China - Two female members of the Falungong religious group - who went on hunger strikes in prison to protest their conviction - have been released after their families paid their fines.
Madam Ng Chye Huay, 41, and Madam Cheng Lu Jin, 38, were released on Tuesday afternoon after being detained at the Changi Women's Prison for about six days.
The two housewives were fined $20,000 and $24,000, respectively on April 27 for unlawful assembly and distribution of illegal VCDs about the sect, while practising Falungong at Esplanade Park between November 2002 and February 2003.
However, both had refused to pay the fine and were detained instead.
During their detainment, the women went on a hunger strike. Madam Cheng, a China-born permanent resident, was eventually hospitalised and had to be put on a drip.
The women's families, worried about their health, paid the remainder of the fines "under tremendous pressure", said Falungong member Zuan Lim at a press conference organised by the group yesterday.
Madam Ng, a Singaporean, paid $13,000, while Madam Cheng paid $17,000, after taking into account the period of their detentions.
Both women, who were at the press conference, were chatty and did not show signs of ill health.
Calling her imprisonment an "injustice", Madam Ng said: "I told the guards I had done no wrong and I wanted to go home. Good people shouldn't be in prison."
Madam Cheng added: "It was not my wish to have the fine paid. It was my husband who paid the fine."
The women said they have appealed against the conviction and will have their appeal heard in July.

"Hong Kong Falun Gong members accuse Singapore of persecuting its followers"

(AP, May 03, 2005)

Singapore, China - About 50 Falun Gong members Tuesday protested outside Singapore's Consulate General in Hong Kong, demanding the city-state overturn convictions against two of its followers for distributing VCDs that promote their beliefs.
"Singapore stop persecuting Falun Gong. Don't be China's accomplice," read a protest banner unfurled by the spiritual group, which was banned as an "evil cult" in China.
The two Falun Gong members in Singapore, Ng Chye Huay, 40, and Cheng Lu Jin, 38, were convicted of distributing unauthorized VCDs and participating in an illegal assembly.
Last week, Ng refused to pay a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (US$12,190; €9,485) and chose to serve a five-month jail term instead. Cheng also did not pay a 24,000 Singapore dollars (US$14,629; €11,382) fine and was sentenced to jail for six months.
In a petition letter to Singapore's Consulate General in Hong Kong, Falun Gong criticized Singapore's courts for ignoring the constitutional rights of Ng and Cheng.
"Spreading their own belief is their basic right," the letter read.
"We call on the Singapore government to release them immediately and take necessary measures to overturn the wrong convictions," said a Hong Kong Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung.
Darryl Lau, Singapore's consul in Hong Kong, said he will convey the letter back to his government.
"Registered societies are free to carry out activities in Singapore, provided the activities do not break any of the laws. This applies to all organizations," Lau said by phone.
The followers staged a sit-in on the street across the building where the office of Singapore's Consulate General was located before dispersing peacefully.
Falun Gong often accuses Beijing of arresting and torturing its followers on the mainland, but it is legal for them to practice in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Singapore's laws, however, require a police permit for outdoor gatherings of more than four people.

"Jailed Falun Gong member on hunger strike in Singapore"

("Kyodo," May 01, 2005)

Singapore, China - A 38-year-old female member of the Falun Gong spiritual group who was jailed this week has gone on a hunger strike, the local Sunday Times newspaper reported Sunday.
Cheng Lu Jin and fellow Falun Gong member Ng Chye Huay, 40, were arrested by Singapore police recently for distributing video compact disks about the sect and taking part in an illegal public assembly.

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