US asylum offer for Falun Gong member infuriates Beijing

South China Morning Post, November 10, 1999

Beijing criticised the US yesterday for granting asylum to a Falun Gong practitioner from the mainland.

Xinhua quoted Foreign Ministry official Zhang Qiyue as saying China had "voiced its indignation and opposition" over the move, adding that it had made "representations" to the United States about the issue.

In Washington, the State Department said it did not discuss individual cases.

According to law firm Madeo and Fasano in New York, asylum was granted to Chen Rong, 17, last week.

"The asylum was based upon the fact that Ms Chen would face persecution, including prison and torture, for practising Falun Gong, at the hands of the Chinese Government if she returned to China," the firm said.

It was not clear if the case would set a precedent for other Falun Gong practitioners to seek asylum in the US.

Ms Zhang warned that bilateral ties would be jeopardised if political asylum was granted to more members of the sect.

"We demand the US Government correct this erroneous act of the immigration authorities so as to avoid bringing more difficulties to ties," she said.

Meanwhile, a mainland newspaper reported that Gao Qiuju, Falun Gong leader in Dalian, Liaoning province, had been arrested for allegedly organising followers to protest in Beijing and for stealing state secrets.

Gao, a 57-year-old woman, was accused of passing two confidential documents to sect leaders Li Chang and Yao Jiemi. Both Li and Yao have been charged. On Monday, an official said 111 followers had been held for crimes ranging from stealing state secrets to obstructing the law.

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