"Falun Gong follower's rights not breached by deportation: court"
(AFP, December 04, 2008)
Strasbourg, France - A follower of the Falun Gong religious group and a failed asylum seeker did not have his human rights breached when Russian authorities deported him to China, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday.
The 74-year-old retired professor, known only as Y, lived in St. Petersburg from April 2003 to May 2007. He had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Russia on a number of occasions, arguing he would be persecuted if sent back to China.
The Strasbourg-based court rejected Y's case on the ground of a lack of evidence, pointing out his wife had told Russian investigators that he had not been mistreated following his deportation.
The European Convention on Human Rights prohibits the extradition of a person to a foreign state if they are likely to be subjected to torture or face "degrading and inhuman treatment."
Falun Gong, which is loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies, was founded in 1992.
Its popularity grew to include tens of millions of followers in 1999, prompting the government to ban it as an "evil cult".
At the time the government said the group was the biggest threat to China's political stability since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
"China sentences Falungong follower to three years in jail: lawyer"
(AFP, November 25, 2008)
Beijing, China - The wife of a man who died in police custody in China ahead of the Beijing Olympics was sentenced to prison on Tuesday for supporting the outlawed Falungong spiritual group, her lawyer said.
A Beijing court jailed Xu Na for three years for "using a heretical organisation to undermine the implementation of the law," lawyer Cheng Hai told AFP, referring to Falungong, which was banned in 1999.
"During her trial Xu plead not guilty and cited the freedom of religious belief guaranteed by (China's) constitution," Cheng said.
"We will appeal the verdict."
Xu and her husband, Yu Zhou, were detained at a roadside police check point ahead of the Beijing Olympics when authorities discovered they had material published by Falungong, according to Cheng.
Xu was convicted of possessing and intending to distribute 53 documents and eight computer disks of Falungong material, he said.
Beijing Chongwen district court, where Cheng said the trial took place, refused to comment on Xu's case when contacted by AFP.
According to the US-based Falun Dafa Information Centre, Xu, 40, previously served five years in prison for her support of the spiritual group.
Eleven days after their arrests, Xu's 42-year-old husband was pronounced dead at the Beijing detention centre where he was being held, it said, calling him a victim of state oppression ahead of the Beijing Games.
Cheng also said Yu died in custody.
"There are suspicions that he was beaten to death while in prison, but so far we have been unable to collect any evidence," Cheng said of Yu, once a well-known folk musician.
The detention centre in Beijing's Tongzhou district named by Cheng and the information centre denied any knowledge of the case.
"We know nothing about this person or his wife," a person answering the phone told AFP on Tuesday.
Falungong, which is loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies, was founded in 1992.
The sect grew to include tens of millions of followers in 1999, prompting the government to ban it as an "evil cult".
At the time the government said the group was the biggest threat to China's political stabilty since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
"China imprisons Falun Gong follower, lawyer says"
(AP, November 14, 2008)
Shanghai, China A Chinese woman who downloaded information about the banned Falun Gong sect and passed it to others has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison, her lawyer said on Friday.
Liu Jin, a former university librarian in Shanghai, was sentenced Nov 3, Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping confirmed in a telephone interview.
'This is common,' Mr Mo, who is well known for defending dissidents in China, said of the case and the sentence.
China banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement as an 'evil cult' and a threat to Communist rule in 1999, and human rights groups have accused the government of torturing and executing members.
Mr Mo confirmed that Liu printed out information from the Internet about the banned group and handed it out to others. He did not say to whom she handed the materials. Her trial on charges of 'using a heretical organisation to undermine implementation of the law' lasted less than a day, he said.
Calls to the Fengxian District Court in Shanghai where the trial took place rang unanswered on Friday.
Police arrested Liu and seized her home computer in Nov 2007, the New York-based Falun Dafa Information Center said in a statement on Friday.
The center, run by the Falun Gong, reported that her husband, Zhang Zhanjie, said his wife had suffered beatings and sleep deprivation while in detention.
Liu and Zhang have been imprisoned before for practicing Falun Gong, the statement said.
Falun Gong is a mix of traditional Chinese calisthenics and doctrines drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi.
The initially tolerated group startled Chinese leaders on April 25, 1999, when about 10,000 Falun Gong members stood silently around the Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing to protest criticism of the group by the state press.
"Falun Gong's Olympic 'call for justice'"
(ABC, August 07, 2008)
Sydney, Australia - About 100 protesters from the Falun Gong sect have gathered in Sydney's CBD calling for greater scrutiny of China's labour camps during the Olympics.
The Falun Gong say about 8,000 of their members in China have been arrested since December in crackdown leading up to the games.
Protest organisers say they have gathered to call for journalists to scrutinise China's labour camps while covering the Olympics.
About 50 people gathered in front of banners calling for justice, while two Falun Gong women who say they have survived torture spoke about their experiences.
One of the women, Jennifer Zeng, says the Games should be used by international media as an opportunity to investigate torture claims.
"Just miles away from the Olympic venue, people are being tortured or even being tortured to death," she said.
"I was detained in the Beijing female labour camp for one year for practicing Falun Gong."
"A Falun Gong welcome for mainland visitors to Taiwan"
by Jonathan Adams ("International Herald Tribune", July 03, 2008)
Taipei, Taiwan - Outside a popular tourist site in Taipei on a baking-hot morning recently, Gao Mingzhu, 56, a visitor from Beijing, took a break in the shade and posed as his tour group companion took a picture.
A few meters away 10 members of Falun Gong, the spiritual group outlawed as an "evil cult" in China, were greeting the newly arrived Chinese tourists and trying to pass out promotional flyers and newspaper articles.
Gao shook his head disapprovingly. "They're cheating people," he said.
But when one of the Falun Gong members, Jou Chi-ying, 68, approached, Gao turned all smiles. Indeed, after some initial uneasiness, the scene quickly became something of a cross-Strait love fest.
"See, we in the Republic of China are so polite to visitors, there's nothing to be afraid of," said Jou, using Taiwan's formal name.
"Taiwan is great," responded Gao. "We're all one family - we share the same ancestors, and the same heart."
So went another encounter between fervent Falun Gong practitioners and cautious mainland visitors. The tourists are guests in the self-governing island that China's Communist government claims as its own, faced with members of a sect that has been banned on the mainland since 1999, but who can speak and gather freely in democratic Taiwan.
Whether hostile, sympathetic or indifferent, such encounters are about to become much more frequent. Beginning Friday, direct charter flights will shuttle as many as 12,000 mainland tourists to the island each weekend, as part of an easing of cross-Strait relations under Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou. Hopes run high in Taiwan that the sharp increase in mainland tourists will help lift the island's lackluster economy.
Now, some in Taiwan are worried that Falun Gong could sour the mainland visitors' experience and hurt the tourist trade, and they would like to curb the group's activities. But Falun Gong members insist on their rights under Taiwan law and say they will increase, not reduce, their presence at scenic sites.
Standing outside the Shilin Residence in Taipei - once home to the late strongman Chiang Kai-shek, whose Nationalist troops fled to Taiwan after the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese civil war - Jou said her group of Falun Gong activists planned to double its numbers at that location alone.
"We'll slowly increase our numbers here to 20 or 25 people, because more mainland tourists will come," said Jou, as the Beijing tourists shuffled back to their tour bus. "They can see our freedom, and we can change their thinking."
Falun Gong originated in northeast China and blends elements of Buddhism and Taoism with traditional breathing and exercise disciplines. The Chinese government, alarmed by its influence and organizational power, outlawed it and tries to block information about the group from the Internet and other media. Falun Gong adherents, who estimate their number at 600,000 in Taiwan, have countered with their own campaign.
At tourist sites around the island, Falun Gong activists have set up exhibits with sometimes graphic photos depicting what they say are Falun Gong victims of Chinese persecution. In deference to mainlanders' sensitivities, some Taiwan officials have called on the sect to tone down its displays and activities - while conceding they have little power to require such an action.
Freedom of assembly is protected by Taiwan's Constitution and its Assembly Act, and government officials who violate those rights can face stiff penalties, including prison time. So officials must fall back on persuasion.
Shih Tsung-hong, the recreation section chief of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration, said that mainland tour guides had complained that their clients did not like running into Falun Gong promoters.
"We're concerned about this problem, and we are trying to get them to reduce their activities," Shih said of Falun Gong. "But this is a democracy - people can say whatever they want, and we can't tell them to stop."
In the southern city of Tainan, which boasts a fort dating from the Dutch colonial presence in the 1600s, controversy flared last week when a newspaper reported that local officials might try to shield mainland tourists from Falun Gong volunteers with partitions or other means.
Tainan city officials denied having any such plans, but said they were instructing the police to watch for and deal with any confrontations between tourists and Falun Gong members. One official said they hoped to strike a balance between safeguarding freedom of expression and making mainland visitors feel welcome.
"We all agree on respecting human rights," said Yu Chi-chi, of Tainan's Cultural Affairs Bureau, in an interview.
"But we just don't want them to see things criticizing their country," Yu said of the mainland Chinese. "If I went to the U.S. and got off the bus and saw signs criticizing Taiwan, I wouldn't feel comfortable."
However, Falun Gong members insist that Taiwan's freedoms are absolute and that they will not compromise, even if their activities offend some mainlanders. In an interview, the chairman of the Taiwan Falun Dafa Society, Chang Ching-hsi, said that the group was loosely organized and did not dictate to its members. But he expects that their presence at tourist sites will increase as Chinese tourists arrive in greater numbers.
"Many more Chinese people will visit here, so we know that it's even more important to be there to tell the truth about Falun Gong," Chang said. "It's not because we'll give orders - everyone understands the importance."
Meanwhile, he said, the group had met with the Taipei police and other officials to discuss its activities.
Chang said the group had suffered greatly at the hands of the Chinese government, and he was trying to influence the thinking of Chinese citizens, one tour group at a time.
"We only criticize the Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese people," Chang said. "We know almost every person in China criticizes the CCP almost every day. If more Chinese people know the truth, we think we'll be able stop the persecution of Falun Gong in China."
Falun Gong members acknowledge that mainland tourists almost never accept their material, and that some react badly.
"Sometimes they give us a 'thumbs up"' of approval, said one Falun Gong volunteer who asked not to be named, because she was not authorized to speak for the group. "But sometimes they criticize us. They say 'Exercise is fine, but don't do this political activity."'
Some observers are skeptical that the group's outreach will make much difference with the mainlanders.
At least twice a week, sect members gather at the north gate of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall - a tourist landmark - to descend on passing visitors. But one security guard who has watched the interactions doubted that their activities would sway many.
"Falun Gong gives them information, and the mainland tourists immediately throw it away," he said, with a chuckle. "It's useless."
But some people in Taiwan hope mainland visitors will absorb a larger lesson about civil rights on the island.
Lai Ching-te, a legislator and chairman of the Asia branch of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (though not a sect member himself), says Taiwan should not restrict its peoples' basic rights just because a few tour guides say their customers are offended.
"In Taiwan you can freely go out and make your appeal. We're a democratic society," Lai said in an interview. "This is mainland China's biggest deficiency - it has no democracy or freedom. And that's what we can show them here."
"Ottawa's Tulip Festival apologizes for barring Falun Gong band"
("CBC News", May 13, 2008)
Ottawa, Canada - Organizers of the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa have apologized to a marching band for turning it away from the opening ceremonies after its members wore uniforms displaying support for Falun Gong.
Tulip Festival organizers barred the Tian Guo marching band from playing at Major's Hill Park earlier this month after they showed up with a banner, scarves and bright blue uniforms bearing the words "Falun Dafa," also known as Falun Gong.
Doug Little, a spokesman for the festival, said at the time that the festival is intended to celebrate international friendship, and was not a place to protest. But the band's members, all practitioners of Falun Gong, called the move discriminatory.
Over the weekend, festival organizers David Luxton and Teri Kirk met personally with band members to apologize for the move, as well as to "exchange views and rebuild relations" with the band, the festival said in a release.
"Comments in the media attributed to festival staff dealing with the incident exacerbated the feelings of grievance by band members, which the festival regrets," Luxton said.
Little also apologized, saying his remarks "have not reflected well on band members, on Falun Gong or the festival."
The release said the band has accepted the apology and an invitation to perform May 18 at 1 p.m. ET at the "Music in the Tulips" event at Dow"s Lake.
Practitioners of Falun Gong, which combines meditation and exercises with Buddhist and Taoist principles, regularly protest alleged human rights abuses against members by the Chinese government.
The Chinese government calls Falun Gong a cult. China banned Falun Gong in 1999 after raiding the homes of Falun Gong leaders and arresting dozens of them.
"Yu Zhou dies as China launches pre-Olympic purge of Falun Gong"
by Michael Sheridan ("Times", April 20, 2008)
Beijing, China - Members of a peaceful Chinese spiritual movement say that more than 1,500 of its supporters have been detained in the run-up to the Olympic Games and that one of them, a popular folk singer, has died in custody.
The arrests have been carried out against Falun Gong, a group that practises traditional meditation and exercise. The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in 1999, calling it "an evil cult".
The official media have not reported the arrests, but there has been lively discussion among music fans on Chinese websites over the fate of the singer Yu Zhou, 42. "F*** authority. Another beautiful soul has left the world," commented one distraught fan.
Falun Gong representatives said Yu was arrested on January 26 while returning home from a concert in Beijing. His family were called to the Qinghe district emergency centre on February 6 to view his body, which was covered in a white sheet.
Yu"s relatives were told that he had died of diabetes or as the result of a hunger strike. They replied that he had never suffered from diabetes and refused official demands for an immediate cremation, the group said.
Yu won a following among young Chinese for his mellow folk ballads. His group, Xiao Juan and Residents from the Valley, released two successful CDs and appeared on the Phoenix television channel.
Yu was a graduate of Beijing University. He married Xu Na, 40, a poet and painter who was imprisoned between 2001 and 2006 for her association with Falun Gong. The group said she was also arrested on January 26 and remains in custody.
It was not possible to verify Falun Gong"s allegations. Officers at the Tongzhou district detention centre would not respond to telephone inquiries.
Friends and colleagues of Yu said they have lost contact with the parents of the couple, whose homes were said to be under police surveillance.
However, a member of Yu"s band, contacted by telephone, said in response to a question about his reported death: "It is not suitable to answer this question. As you know, if I answer it I will be in trouble."
While global attention has focused on the uprising in Tibet, the renewed attack on Falun Gong shows that the state security apparatus is determined to crush any domestic opposition before the Beijing Games start in August.
"It is increasingly clear that much of the current wave of repression is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but actually because of the Olympics," said Amnesty International, which has detailed numerous arrests and the harassment of Chinese civil rights activists.
Now operating from exile, Falun Gong said that at least 1,878 of its adherents had been arrested since January 1. The detainees included 156 people in Beijing. Of these, 26 were residents of the Chaoyang and Shunyi districts, which host Olympic venues.
Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk who is said to have achieved enlightenment. At first it attracted little official attention. As it grew in numbers, however, the group clashed with the authorities and a ferocious crackdown was launched.
The US State Department estimates that at least 100,000 Falun Gong members have been imprisoned, locked up in psychiatric hospitals or sent to "reeducation" camps, where they are made to denounce Li.
The group itself says several thousand of its followers have died in prison as a result of torture and beatings.
"Falun Gong Deaths Escalate as Olympics Approach"
("OnTheWeb", April 04, 2008)
Beijing, China - The Falun Dafa Information Center is alarmed at a series of reports indicating adherents in China are being killed in custody within days, or even hours, of being detained by authorities. The Center expressed today that the escalating maltreatment is a direct result of efforts to stamp out Falun Gong prior to the summer Olympics.
"The speed with which Falun Gong adherents are being seized by police, abused, and turning up dead is alarming and reprehensible, says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Ms. Gail Rachlin. These are people who never should have been arrested in the first place. Arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions are no way to prepare for the Olympics.
If Chinas communist authorities wish to hold a truly successful Olympic Games, rounding up and killing those who might remind us that all is not well is not the way to go about it. The artificially sterile, silent streets of Beijing should give visitors the chills.
The Center is particularly concerned over recent reports of adherents dying in custody shortly after their arrest. Within the first three months of 2008, the Center has documented six cases of practitioner deaths occurring within merely 16 days of arrest and in some cases, within hours. By comparison, in 2007, it was over the course of the entire year that the same number died within such a short time in custody. In several of the recent cases, family members were able to view the body before its cremation and saw signs of torture, including strangulation marks or bruises from electric batons.
Among the deaths reported in 2008 was that of Mr. Yu Zhou, 42, a musician who was arrested with his wife Ms. Xu Na at the end of January on their way home from a performance by his band. The couple was among those listed in a previous Center release about widespread arrests in Beijing (news). Eleven days after their arrest, the authorities notified their family members to come to Qinghe Emergency Center, where they found Yu already dead. He had been in good health before his detention, but the hospital refused to conduct an autopsy. Ms. Xu, who was released in 2006 after serving five years in prison for practicing Falun Gong, remains in custody at Beijing Detention Center. Yu had graduated from the French Department at Beijing University and an online music video of his band shows him playing the drums:
Cases such as Yus and others detailed below indicate an increase in the severity of treatment inflicted in custody on those who practice Falun Gong and point to the immediate danger facing the hundreds of adherents detained in Beijing and elsewhere since the beginning of the year. The reports also match testimonies from adherents who were released recently, stating that security agents had spoken to them of orders received from above to escalate the crackdown on the group ahead of the Olympic Games.
Since January 2007, the Center has documented the cases of 129 Falun Gong practitioners that died of abuse, passing away either in police custody or upon release as a result of injuries incurred while in detention. A complete table of the names and available details surrounding these known cases is available here. The table was compiled from a variety of sources, including testimony of relatives or friends of the deceased, photographic evidence, and follow-up phone calls made by researchers to the relevant police or prison authorities.
The following are a number sample cases. Additional details that lend themselves to independent verification can be made available upon request. Tables with the names of those Falun Gong practitioners who have died in the past 15 months are attached.
Examples of 2007 deaths occurring shortly after arrest:
On March 10, 2007, police arrested Ms. Tang Xingyun, 65, from the city of Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning as she distributed printed material about Falun Gong. She died the same day at the police station, reportedly as a result of being shocked simultaneously by eight electric batons.
Mr. Deng Wenyang, a former employee of Shanhaiguan Bridge Factory in Hebei province who was in his thirties, was arrested on September 26, 2007. He was already in weak physical condition following an earlier detention in August, but was nevertheless was sent to Gaoyang RTL camp. He died ten days later, on October 8.
Examples of 2008 deaths occurring shortly after arrest
Ms. Gu Jianmin, 53, from Pudong New District in Shanghai was arrested on March 1, 2008. Twelve days later, on March 13, an agent from the local 610 Office called her husband, saying she was unwell and was to be released on medical parole. After spending several hours completing forms for her release, Ms. Gus husband was taken to a local hospital, where a doctor declared her dead after a brief attempt to rescue her.
Mr. Wang Guiming, 40, from Tonghua City in Jilin Province was arrested on February 13, 2008, while selling sweet potatoes. He was taken to Changliu Detention Center and within days was sentenced to re-education through labor (RTL). He was transferred to Chaoyanggou RTL camp on Feb 17, 2008, where he was reportedly shocked with electric batons. He died on Feb 29, 16 days after his initial arrest. His family was permitted to see his body on March 3, and found large bruises on his face, chest and anus.
Such deaths appear to be the result of official enactments of Chinese communist party policy. Official statements and documents have repeatedly named Falun Gong as one of the key targets for monitoring and repression in anticipation of the Olympics. (fact sheet) This fits a regular pattern of cracking down on the group before important national events, such as the recent 17th Party Congress in October 2007. (fact sheet)
According to one report from an intelligence journal in 2005, for example, Chinas deputy minister of public security, Liu Jing, was assigned the responsibility of wiping out the practice before the Games. (news) More recently, according to Amnesty International, in preparing for the Games, former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang issued the following order in the context of successfully holding the Olympics: We must strike hard at hostile forces at home and abroad, such as ethnic separatists, religious extremists, violent terrorists and ... the Falun Gong. (report)
In total, since 1999, the Center has documented the cases of 3,137 Falun Gong practitioners, who have died as a result of various forms of persecution, not only from abuse in custody, but also of destitution and other traumas related to the campaign. Despite the apparently high count, due to the secrecy surrounding such cases and the danger posed to families sending information overseas, the actual death toll is most likely much higher.
"Falun Gong cries foul over stricter entry regulations"
by Nishika Patel ("The Standard", March 28, 2008)
Hong Kong, China - The Falun Gong has slammed Hong Kong's strict immigration control in the run-up to the August Olympics, claiming it has prevented 80 percent of its Taiwanese members from attending a human rights awareness event in the territory.
While up to 90 percent of its members had been allowed entry in the past, the group told The Standard that the government has banned hundreds of practitioners from entering the territory over the past few months.
Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said only 100 Taiwanese members had been allowed in for last Sunday's Human Rights Torch Relay launch.
"We regret to say that the Immigration Department of Hong Kong is using every means to collect a blacklist [to] prevent our foreign members from coming in," Kan said.
"This is of great concern because Hong Kong is a free city but we regret the SAR government is more and more controlled by the mainland regime."
The Human Rights Torch Relay is a global campaign that spans 40 countries and 150 cities to highlight human rights violations by China, including the Tibet crackdown and the persecution of Falun Gong in the mainland
The Falun Gong is banned in the mainland but is legal in Hong Kong.
City University political professor James Sung Lap-kung said more and more members will be turned away in the coming months following pressure from Beijing, which views the group as a "dangerous" cult.
"The Falun Gong will be in deep trouble over the next few months. Beijing considers the Falun Gong to be a partner in the recent Tibet riots," Sung said. "As the Olympics draw closer, Beijing will be trying to identify dangerous forces that are planning to jeopardize the Games."
Kan said the Falun Gong will step up the number of parades and rallies in the run-up to the Olympics to highlight the persecution of its members in the mainland. He stressed the group was not calling for a boycott of the Games and was not against the Olympic torch relay arriving in the SAR on May 2.
Sung said the stuation in Hong Kong is very sensitive as the government will try to balance its role as an international communications center with any order from Beijing.
Last month the Falun Gong in Hong Kong lost a judicial review, appealing against the Immigration Department's refusal to allow hundreds of its Taiwanese members into Hong Kong during the 10th handover ceremony. The judge had ruled it was a one-off incident and was not a result of religious discrimination as argued by the group.
On the latest claims, a government spokesman said: "We do not comment on speculative reports. The Immigration Department has the responsibility to uphold effective immigration control so as to ensure Hong Kong's public interest."
The department, he said, handles all entry applications in accordance with the law and prevailing policy and having due regard to individual circumstances.
"Dance show risks Sweden China row"
(BBC, January 30, 2008)
Stockholm, Sweden - Diplomatic relations between Sweden and China are said to be threatened by a row over dance performances.
Swedish officials say China is against shows planned for Stockholm and Linkoping because some of the US-based performers have links to Falun Gong.
The spiritual movement is banned in China and accused by the Beijing government of being a cult.
Authorities in the two cities say they have no intention of stopping the performances booked for March.
The Shen Yun - Chinese Spectacular is performed by a troupe of more than 100 dancers, singers, musicians and orchestra from the New York-based Divine Performing Arts.
Performances are based on ancient heroic legends and fables from the Tang, Song and Qing Dynasties, as well as contemporary tales.
The Associated Press news agency says organisers in Sweden include the local branch of the Falun Gong.
Crossed the line
City officials from Stockholm and Linkoping say they received calls from the Chinese embassy saying the troupe was linked to Falun Gong.
"They stepped way over the line. I think they really owe us an apology and an explanation," Madeleine Sjoestedt, Stockholm Vice-Mayor for Culture and Sports, told the AFP news agency.
A Chinese embassy spokesman told AFP that the only aim was to inform the authorities "of what Falun Gong is". The spokesman said any decision about cancellation was left up to the city.
"Chinese Falun Gong followers in South Korea win lawsuit, paving way for refugee status"
(AP, January 18, 2008)
Seoul, South Korea - A Seoul court ruled in favor of two Chinese followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, paving the way for them to receive refugee status in South Korea, a court official said Friday.
The Seoul Administrative Court ruling Thursday rejected a Justice Ministry decision denying recognition of the plaintiffs as refugees, according to a copy of the ruling and court spokesman Kim Jung-wook.
The plaintiffs - a man and woman whose identities were withheld - filed a lawsuit in 2006, seeking to reverse the ministry's decision on grounds that they would face persecution in China because of their Falun Gong-related activities and their opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.
The two, who are members of China's ethnic Korean minority, would be the first Falun Gong followers to be granted refugee status in South Korea if the ruling is not appealed.
A Justice Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing office policy, said the ministry would decide whether to appeal after reviewing the ruling.
Meanwhile, the court rejected similar suits by 30 other Falun Gong followers, saying their activities in South Korea were believed to be aimed at seeking refugee status.
Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers with a mix of traditional Chinese calisthenics and doctrines drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi. China banned it as a threat to public safety and communist rule, calling it an "evil cult".