"11 Falun Gong members arrested for posting torture photos on Internet"
The arrest this month of 11 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement for using the Internet to disseminate photos of the torture some of them have undergone in prison was condemned today by Reporters Without Borders as yet another freedom of expression violation by the Chinese authorities. More than 20 Falun Gong followers are already in prison for the same reason.
"In a country where the press is under the authorities' control, Falun Gong members have no choice but to use the Internet to denounce the atrocities of which they are victims," the organisation said. "Like political dissidents, they are targeted by a regime that cannot stand criticism and closely controls information circulating online."
Liao Yuanhua, the most well-known victim, already spent four years in prison for being a Falun Gong member. He was arrested on 2 December for circulating photographic re-enactments of the torture he underwent while in detention. In September, a Falun Gong site posted photos showing the torture he received in Fanjiatai prison in the city Shayang (in the central province of Hubei) being re-enacted.
Through the People's Daily, the Chinese authorities described the offending photos as "pure invention." They also reiterated the position that the Falun Gong is a sect that needs to be "eradicated" because it fosters "lying and conspiracy in order to disturb the construction of a well off society."
Reporters Without Borders calculates that at least 30 people are currently detained for posting or viewing documents on the Internet that support the Falun Gong or criticise the systematic torture its followers undergo in Chinese prisons.
"Government refutes Falun Gong report"
The government has refuted as baseless claims by the Chinese cult Falun Gong that a lawsuit was filed in Tanzania against Chinese State Councillor Chen Zhili on allegations of torture and extra-judicial killings committed in China.
The cult claimed in a report published on its website that Zhili was summoned by a court of law while on a four-day working visit to Dar es Salaam last July, allegedly after a group of international lawyers representing the Falun Gong practitioner filed a case against her.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said in a statement the report posted on the web on July 31, 2004 did not say which court summoned Zhili who is also a former Chinese Education Minister.
The statement said the government did not have any record of legal charges against Zhili during her visit to Tanzania.
The story is a mere fabrication aiming at spoiling the good friendship between Tanzania and China, the statement said.
It said the government viewed the visit as a milestone of the co-operation between China and Tanzania and that it saw Falun Gongs reliance on falsehoods as a loss of direction by the cult which claims to advocate truth.
The State Councillor was engaged in constructive discussions with the Tanzanian government officials on ways to further expand and strengthen co-operation between the two countries, particularly in the education and cultural sectors, the statement said.
The government said it would not allow small groups of people like the Falun Gong cult to damage the longstanding friendship and brotherhood that existed between the upright people of China and Tanzania.
"Ex-China chief sued over torture"
AN Australian member of the Falungong sect launched a suit against former Chinese president Jiang Zemin in a Sydney court today, alleging she was illegally tortured for her beliefs while on a visit to China four years ago.
The lawsuit alleges that Zhang Cuiying, 42, was arrested in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in March 2000 while on her way to a Falungong protest in Beijing and subsequently imprisoned for eight months.
The Australian national said she was shackled and forced to work 10 hours a day in a "damp, dark cell" she shared with a mental patient.
"Bruises covered my entire body and the pain made me unable to sleep," she said outside the court, speaking through an interpreter.
"The skin all over my body began to rot and fester, and since I refused to give up Falungong practice, the guards put me into the quarters for male prisoners to humiliate me."
She was eventually released after representations from the Australian government.
The civil action seeks unspecified damages against Jiang and the Chinese government, although Zhang said the case was not about money but bringing the former Chinese supremo to account.
"It is for upholding justice that I'm taking Jiang Zemin to court for his grievous violations of human rights and crimes against humanity," she said.
Zhang's legal team said the Australian case was one of 46 lawsuits filed against Jiang in 26 countries by Falungong members.
The spiritual group once claimed millions of followers in China, but has faced a crackdown by the government, which has labelled it an "evil cult" and considers it one of the most serious threats to its rule.
Neither Jiang nor the Chinese government were represented at the hearing in the New South Wales state Supreme Court, which was held over until February 28 next year to allow further argument.
"Veteran NZ Falun Gong campaigner held in Hong Kong - sect"
New Zealand diplomats are probing the alleged detention at Hong Kong airport of a veteran campaigner for the Falun Gong spiritual group, an official said yesterday.
Sect members said Jenny Lee, an elderly Chinese-born campaigner who now lives in New Zealand, was being held in the former British colony on unspecified grounds.
"She was detained on Monday night and we have not been able to find out what for," said Lu Jie, a Hong Kong-based member of the group, which is outlawed in mainland China.
"All she was able to tell us in a quick phone call was that she was being held and that her flight ticket had been taken from her."
New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokesman Jonathan Schwass yesterday said the department understood the woman had since left Hong Kong.
She had not sought any assistance from the ministry.
A spokeswoman at the New Zealand consulate-general confirmed it had been asked to investigate the alleged detention of a New Zealand passport holder believed connected to the sect.
"We are trying to get information but so far Hong Kong immigration have not given us any," she said.
Lee, believed to be in her 60s, was among 16 practitioners of the Buddhism-inspired sect who in 2002 were arrested for obstruction during a rowdy protest outside China's representative Hong Kong office.
She is believed to have travelled to Hong Kong to visit relatives and to speak to her lawyer about other Falun Gong matters.
The Falun Gong once claimed millions of followers on the mainland but has been outlawed as an "evil cult" by Beijing since 1999.
Members maintain it involves peaceful and harmless yoga-style meditation practices.
The group claims that at least 1600 of its members have been tortured or beaten to death in China since a crackdown ordered four years ago largely drove the organisation underground.
Although the sect is not banned in Hong Kong, which has its own government and legal system, members have often been stopped there by immigration officers, prompting accusations that Hong Kong is acting on the orders of officials in Beijing.
The city has repeatedly denied sect claims that it keeps a blacklist of members China wants kept from the territory.
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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