Falun Gong members across the nation Friday protested the trial of a New York acupuncturist charged with leaking state secrets after she helped expose the Chinese government's persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
In cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, practitioners pleaded with Chinese diplomats to help end the trial of 37-year-old Teng Chunyan, which began on Thanksgiving Day.
Chunyan allegedly tipped off the foreign press to Falun Gong protests and helped arrange interviews with members of the banned group, according to her friend, Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York.
Neither Rachlin nor Chunyan's husband have spoken with her since she left for Beijing in May. ``I told her it would be dangerous to go,'' said Rachlin, 56. But in Falun Dafa, as the practice is also called, ``everyone has a mind of their own. She just wants the whole world to know the truth.''
Rachlin hopes the U.S. State Department will intervene, but she said Assistant Secretary of State Harold Koh informed her the department is ``limited in what they could do because Chunyan is not a U.S. citizen.''
No one from the state department could be reached for comment Friday.
But with Friday's protest, Rachlin hoped to make some headway.
``We need to stop this persecution. People just want to have their freedom to believe,'' Rachlin said.
Falun Gong members from across the country were to deliver letters to Chinese consulates on Friday urging that the trial be stopped and Chunyan freed, she said.
``This woman could be sent to prison for 10 years,'' said San Francisco protest organizer Alan Zeng, a 32-year-old software engineer from Mountain View who has been practicing Falun Gong for about three years. ``This is an indication that the Chinese president has been ordered to step up the campaign of persecuting Falun Gong members -- a warning to overseas practitioners to watch out.''
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice rooted in Chinese culture that embraces some of the values that have guided Chinese people for centuries: meditation, gentle exercises and the guiding principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.
But the Chinese government considers Falun Gong a dangerous cult, and banned its practice in July 1999. While members claim they have no leader, Beijing officials say they are led by Li Hongzhi, a former martial arts instructor who they have described as an ``evil figure,'' capable of disrupting social stability.
``It is an evil cult because the founder believes he is more powerful than Jesus, God, Gandhi, Buddha and others,'' Xiaozhong Yang, a spokesman for the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, said Friday. ``More than 1,600 people have died because they are encouraged not to seek medical care. It is a great disaster for the Chinese society.''
For Rachlin, who helped to organize Falun Gong meetings and get-togethers with Chunyan in her Manhattan office, the trial of her friend is just another obstacle in reaching the truth.
``I know she'll be home soon,'' Rachlin said. ``She is a very intelligent woman. She knows how to operate.''
A US resident and Falungong practitioner jailed for trying to document the government's abuse against the group has not been allowed to see or call her family since she was arrested in May, the group's New York office said Friday.
Gail Rachlin, spokeswoman for the group, said Teng Chunyan's husband, an American citizen, had travelled to China hoping to see her, but has been denied access.
"We've contacted the (US) State Department, senators, congressmen. I don't know what else we can do," Rachlin told AFP Friday.
Rachlin said she did not believe the 37-year-old acupuncturist from New York would be tortured like other arrested members of the banned Falungong group, but police may be trying to force her to reveal information about Chinese Falungong practitioners she has contacted.
Teng was tried in a one-day secret trial Thursday on charges of "prying into state intelligence for overseas organisations" at the Beijing Intermediate People's Court.
She is accused of arranging an interview between foreign reporters and Falungong members who had been incarcerated in a mental hospital.
Fifty practitioners from a rural district in Beijing were locked up in the hospital for more than a month to prevent them from going to Tiananmen Square to protest the ban against the group.
Teng is also accused of collaborating with Falungong members to take pictures of practitioners detained in the hospital and passing the photos on to foreign media.
A verdict is expected to be announced in a week and Teng faces a minimum of 10 years in jail if convicted.
Teng, who is married to a US citizen, is the first overseas member of the Falungong to be tried in China and only the second US green card holder, the center said.
The green card, or immigration card, entitles her to live in the United States, but she is not a citizen, which means she would not be able to enjoy consular protection in China.
Frank Lu, director of the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, said Teng was held for more than a month before she was formally charged, which violates Chinese criminal law.
She was arrested on May 13 and her family was not informed of the arrest until October, the center said. She was not formally charged until July 27.
A Falungong practitioner for about two years, Teng gave up her acupuncture practice on Fifth Avenue in New York to travel to China, in hopes of collecting evidence of the government's maltreatment of Falungong members.
"Her main objective was to expose the truth to the world about the atrocities," Rachlin said.
China banned the Falungong movement in July last year and launched a massive crackdown which saw leaders jailed for up to 18 years and thousands of followers sent to prison or labor camps.
Falun Gong activists have started distributing newsletters containing personal attacks on President Jiang Zemin to households around Beijing. It is probably the first time in a decade an underground organisation has dared to print and circulate anti-government propaganda in the capital, a crime which can carry the death penalty. Calling itself Periodical Number One and dated October 21, the one-page bulletin was distributed on Tuesday to all households in at least one large residential complex in Beijing.
An editorial asked readers to consider what they knew about the Falun Gong, and then urged them not to believe government propaganda. It gave details of the persecution suffered by the movement's followers, as well as listing the names of some of those who had died in prison.
It accused state media of distorting the truth about what had happened to those who died in detention, and promised to provide further updates in the future. "We will help you to know the truth about Falun Gong," it said.
Most of the newsletter is devoted to attacking Mr Jiang, accusing him of being a tyrant whose public statements are at odds with his internal instructions.Copyright (c) 2000. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Beijing -- A U.S. resident arrested in China on spying charges after she helped publicize the government's crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement was tried yesterday under a veil of secrecy.
Teng Chunyan, using the pseudonym Hannah Li, tipped off foreign reporters to Falun Gong protests and helped arrange interviews with members of the banned group. She was charged with passing intelligence to foreign organizations, diplomats said.
Teng, a Chinese citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident, could face 10 years in prison if convicted -- or more if the information she allegedly passed is deemed highly important.
After a three-hour trial, Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court recessed without issuing a verdict, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Teng was represented by two lawyers but her family members were barred, the Hong Kong-based group said.
Police outside the courthouse ordered foreign reporters away without explanation.
The campaign against Falun Gong is a sensitive political issue in China, where communist leaders and police are embarrassed by their inability to quash the popular meditation movement.
Teng joined Falun Gong last year in New Jersey, and her acupuncture clinic in New York became an informal clubhouse for the group, said Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York. Teng went to Beijing in February and, as Hannah Li, helped publicize the crackdown, contacting foreign journalists on and off for several months.
A July 27 indictment later passed on to Teng's family accused her of causing "serious damage" to China, Rachlin said. Specifically, it charged her with sneaking foreign reporters into a psychiatric hospital in suburban Beijing where Falun Gong followers were detained, which Rachlin said was true.
A copy of a second purported indictment, provided by the Hong Kong-based Information Center, gave a different version. It said an accomplice with the surname Xu used a digital camera from Teng to photograph Falun Gong followers at a deprogramming center in March. Teng then allegedly gave the photos to foreign media.
The indictment, dated Sept. 13, also accused Teng of taking reporters to interview Falun Gong members in southwestern Beijing on Feb. 7. It said police detained her May 13 and formally charged her two months later.
Rachlin said Teng's husband, a U.S. citizen whom she would not identify, flew to Beijing to monitor the trial, although diplomats in touch with the man earlier said China had refused to give him a visa.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it had no information on Teng. U.S. law does not require U.S. diplomats to provide legal assistance to residency holders.
Falun Gong drew millions of adherents in the 1990s.
China banned the group in July 1999, branding it a cult.
Her father detained in a Chinese labour camp and her mother no longer reachable, Lingdi Zhang said she must suffer through the uncertainty in Ottawa or return to China and be arrested.
Like her father, Prof. Kulun Zhang, Lingdi practises Falun Gong, a mental and physical discipline similar to Tai Chi. In 1999, the Chinese government cracked down on the practice, fearing its high number of devotees might become a threat to the Communist Party.
Kulun Zhang was one of thousands arrested under the ban.
Yesterday, Lingdi's desperate pleas for help to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China were ignored, with staff refusing to even accept Zhang's letter while she and about 30 others protested outside.
"I sincerely wish that you urge the Chinese government to immediately release my father Zhang Kulun, who was illegally detained in Jinan of China and was sentenced to three years to labour camp without trial," the letter begins.
Kulun Zhang, a Canadian citizen and professor of art, returned to China in 1996 with his wife to care for his ailing, 90-year-old mother-in-law. In 1999, the 60-year-old man was arrested three times for practising or being associated with Falun Gong.
The last time, on Nov. 15, 1999, he was sentenced to three years in a labour camp, Lingdi says.
Lingdi keeps abreast of the situation via her mother in China. For the last two days, she has tried continuously to reach her mother by phone but no one answers. Lingdi doesn't know where to turn. She fears her father will die before his three-year sentence is over.
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the situation and has reached a ministry in China to determine the exact charges and whether any human rights violations where committed, as the family alleges.
But the Chinese government is usually slow to respond in such matters, said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Reynald Doiron. They have to go through various channels to provide the answers requested, he explained.
BEIJING (AP) - A Beijing court held a secretive trial Thursday for a follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect accused of spying, apparently for gathering evidence on China's harsh 16-month-old crackdown against the group.
Teng Chunyan, a Chinese citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident, faced lengthy prison time if convicted of gathering intelligence and passing it to foreign organizations, said diplomats and a Falun Gong spokeswoman.
Represented by two lawyers but with her family members barred, Teng stood trial for three hours in Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court before judges recessed without issuing a verdict, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported.
Prosecutors confirmed Teng's trial on spying charges, although court officials denied knowing about the case. Outside the court, police ordered foreign reporters away without giving a reason.
The official reticence is typical for cases ostensibly involving state secrets. The campaign against Falun Gong is a sensitive political issue in China, with communist leaders and police embarrassed by their inability to quash the sect.
Teng played a role in bolstering the group's defiance and publicizing the crackdown. She joined Falun Gong last year in New Jersey and her acupuncture clinic in New York City's midtown area became an informal clubhouse for the group, said Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York.
Under the pseudonym Hannah Li, Teng returned to Beijing in February. Off and on for several months she tipped off foreign journalists about planned protests and helped arrange interviews.
An indictment dated July 27 and later passed along to Teng's family accused her of causing ``serious damage'' to China, said Rachlin. Specifically it charged her with sneaking foreign reporters into a psychiatric hospital in suburban Beijing where sect followers were detained - an accusation Rachlin said was true.
A copy of a second purported indictment, provided by the Information Center, gave a different version. It said on March 9 an accomplice surnamed Xu used a digital camera from Teng to photograph Falun Gong followers at a deprogramming center. Teng then allegedly gave the photos to foreign news media.
The purported indictment, dated Sept. 13, also accused Teng of taking foreign reporters to interview Falun Gong members in southwestern Beijing on Feb. 7. It said police detained her on May 13 and formally charged her two months later.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it had no information on Teng.
Falun Gong drew millions of adherents in the 1990s with its mix of slow-motion exercise and mix of ideas from Taoism, Buddhism and its founder, Li Hongzhi, a former government clerk now living in the United States.
Worried that the group's size and organization could challenge the Communist Party's monopoly on power, China banned the group as a dangerous cult. An unrelenting smear campaign in state-controlled media has accused Falun Gong of causing at least 1,500 deaths.
Two more members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group have been beaten to death in police custody, a human rights group and family members said yesterday. The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said 70 Falun Gong practitioners had died in police custody since the movement was outlawed as an "evil cult" in July last year.
Li Wenrui, 37, an official at the Foreign Trade Bureau in Harbin, died on November 9 at a detention centre in Beijing, the centre said. Li was arrested three days earlier when he protested against the Government's crackdown on the group at Tiananmen Square.
Police told his family on November 11 that he committed suicide by jumping from the window of the detention centre. Li's family members said they were sure he was tortured to death.
Li's mother-in-law, Gao Sixian, was distraught yesterday.
"My daughter came to Beijing to see the body and his skull had a big hole in it and there were many bruises on his body. He was definitely killed. He was tightly watched. How could he jump out the window?" Ms Gao said.
Police declined to comment.
Another Falun Gong practitioner, Yang Guijin, 40, also died from torture, according to the centre.
A resident of Shandong province, Yang was arrested in October for distributing Falun Gong leaflets. She was beaten severely in the police station and chained to a chair, the group said.
Yang went on a hunger strike for a week to protest against the treatment and was found dead on October 15 in the bathroom of the station, it said.
A policeman at the station, identifying himself as Zhang Zhushun, denied Yang was beaten to death. He said she had a serious heart disease and had refused treatment.
The centre yesterday urged UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, who is visiting Beijing, to step up pressure on China to improve human rights and stop the torture of detainees.
Mrs Robinson has also been asked to press Beijing over the prosecution of sect member Teng Chunyan, 37, who holds a US green card. The woman will tomorrow face court in Beijing accused of spying.
The Government has labelled the Falun Gong the biggest threat to its rule since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
About 450 Falun Gong members have received prison sentences of up to 18 years and more than 600 have been sent to mental hospitals, the centre says.
BEIJING (AP) - Two more members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group have died in Chinese police custody and another will go on trial for spying, a human rights group said Tuesday.
Li Wenrui, a 37-year-old government trade official from the northeastern city of Harbin, died Nov. 9, three days after his arrest in Beijing for protesting the government crackdown on Falun Gong, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Police said Li killed himself by jumping out a window, but relatives said they suspected he was beaten to death, the Hong Kong-based center said.
Yang Guijin, 40, was arrested for distributing pamphlets and died Oct. 15 at a detention center in eastern Shandong province after a weeklong hunger strike to protest beatings by guards, the center said.
The deaths raise to 70 the number of Falun Gong followers who have died in detention since Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, the center said.
The information center also reported that Teng Chunyan, 37, who has a Chinese passport and also has permanent resident status in the United States, will go on trial Thursday in Beijing for ``gathering intelligence for an overseas organization.''
Teng is the first Falun Gong member with U.S. residency to be tried on charges of spying, which could bring a sentence of more than 10 years, the center said. The indictment said Teng broke the law by mailing information about Falun Gong overseas after arriving in China in March, the center said.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it had no information on Teng, and prosecutors and courts refused to discuss the case.
Falun Gong attracted millions of members in the 1990s with its health regimen and eclectic philosophy mixing Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of its founder, former government clerk Li Hongzhi, now believed to be in the United States.
BEIJING, Nov. 21 - A 37-year-old acupuncturist who lives in New York is to be tried this week in Beijing for "illegal activities" related to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to a human rights group based in Hong Kong.
The trial of the acupunturist, Tang Chunyan, who has a Chinese passport and an American residence permit, is to start Thursday. Ms. Tang, a member of Falun Gong, entered China in March to gather information on persecution of the group's members, according to the rights group, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Falun Gong was banned in China about 18 months ago, when government leaders denounced it as a cult. Small acts of protest have become a daily spectacle on Tiananmen Square as members unfurl banners or adopt meditation poses, only to be whisked away by the police.
The effort to bring Ms. Tang to trial, on charges of "gathering intelligence for an alien organization," suggests that the government has become frustrated by members who come from overseas - mostly Chinese with American residency - and intends to clamp down.
Falun Gong says more than 70 members have died in detention.
A Chinese-born Falun Gong follower who holds a US green card will face court in Beijing on Thursday accused of spying, a human rights group reported yesterday.
Teng Chunyan, a 37-year-old acupuncturist, is being held at Beijing's Banbuqiao Detention Centre for allegedly collecting and disseminating information about fellow Falun Gong members in China, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported.
The centre said that Teng disappeared in March after arriving in Shenzhen.
Her relatives in China were only notified last month that she would face trial in Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court for "spying for intelligence for foreign illegal organisations".
The Government banned the spiritual movement in July last year, saying it was an "evil sect" responsible for the deaths of 1,400 followers.
The centre said Teng migrated to the US eight years ago. Neither the US Embassy nor her American husband had been informed about the trial.
It said that unlike other Falun Gong trials, the hearing would be held behind closed doors and Teng's family would not be allowed to attend. Teng could face at least 10 years in jail if convicted.
The centre quoted a court official as saying that only the two lawyers hired by Teng would be allowed to witness the hearing on Thursday. "She will be the first green-card holder to be convicted in China," the centre said.
It urged Mary Robinson, the visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to voice concern over Teng's case.
"China now considers information about suppression and persecution of Falun Gong members as intelligence," the centre said. "The collection and provision of such information to foreign organisations has become a punishable crime.
"We strongly demand that the visiting commissioner express concern over China describing all information about human rights abuses as 'intelligence' and sentencing people who investigate these abuses to heavy jail terms."
The Chinese government was preparing a case against a Chinese-born American green card holder for "prying into state intelligence," ostensibly related to the crackdown on the outlawed Falungong spiritual sect, a Hong Kong rights group said Monday.
Teng Chunyan, 37, would be tried by the Beijing Intermediate People's Court on Thursday for attempting to gather proof that the banned group was being persecuted by the Chinese government, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
She could be facing up to 10-years in prison in a secret trial that would bar her mainland family members from attending, it said.
Teng, who is married to an American citizen, entered China through the southern city of Shenzhen in March and for seven months lost communication with her family, the center said.
It was only in October that her mainland family was informed that she was being held in Beijing's Banbuqiao detention center and that the state was bringing against her charges of "prying into state intelligence for foreign organizations."
Neither her husband nor the US Embassy were informed of her arrest, it said.
If convicted and sentenced, Teng will be the first US green card, or immigration card, holder to be sentenced in China for her support of the banned group.
Other Chinese-born US passport and green card holders that had been detained in Falungong protests since its July 1999 ban, had previously been expelled from the country.
"What is alarming is that now information on the crackdown on Falungong is being considered 'state intelligence' and that gathering such information and transmitting it overseas constitutes the crime of 'prying into state intelligence for foreign organizations," the center said.
Chinese political dissidents Zhang Shanguang and He Huhui were both recently sentenced to 10 years for leaking overseas information on rural and worker protests, while Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent Uighur dissident in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region was sentenced to eight years for similar leaks, the center said.
The Falungong has been branded by the Chinese government as the biggest threat to one party communist rule since the 1989 Tiananmen protests and have been outlawed as an "illegal organization" and an "evil cult" interfering with the implementation of the law.
The group follows the Buddhist and Taoist inspired moral teachings of exiled guru Li Hongzhi, and while previously practicing morning group meditation and breathing exercises in Chinese parks, now regularly protests the ban on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.
HONG KONG - China will sentence a U.S.-based Falun Gong member on charges of "spying for a foreign organisation" this week, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Monday.
Teng, arrested in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in March, was likely to be jailed for more than 10 years, The Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said in a statement.
A court in Beijing would announce the sentencing in a secret trial against Teng Chunyan, who holds a U.S. "green card," on November 23, it said.
It said if China sentenced the 37-year-old Teng, it would be the first time that Beijing had jailed a U.S.-based Falun Gong member practitioner.
In the past, China usually detained U.S.-based Falun Gong practitioners for several days before releasing them. It is likely that Teng's sentencing would be to send a warning signal to overseas-based Falun Gong members, the rights group said.
The Information Centre said Teng was gathering information on China's persecution of the members of the banned spiritual movement.
The Chinese authorities still had not notified Teng's American husband and the U.S. embassy, it said.
Falun Gong combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings. It first rattled Beijing with a 10,000-strong protest in April in 1999. Later that year, the ruling Communist Party banned it.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
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