Freed activist turns on Falun Gong

The American resident denounces the 'evil cult' as she leaves a Beijing prison

The South China Morning Post/March 20, 2003

A Chinese-born American resident imprisoned for publicising details of China's crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement was released yesterday after serving almost three years. Teng Chunyan denounced the movement after she walked free from prison.

She had returned to China after the government banned Falun Gong in 1999. She told foreign reporters in advance about protests and helped them to meet practitioners.

The activist was detained in May 2000.

The State Council's Information Office arranged for foreign reporters to be on hand when Ms Teng, 40, walked out of a women's prison on the southern outskirts of Beijing.

A prison warden, Huang Qinghua, said Ms Teng was released just over one month early due to good behaviour.

"Falun Gong is purely an evil cult," Ms Teng said, echoing the central government's description of the group. "It has a definite political aspect."

Ms Teng made similar comments in prison interviews arranged by the government, prompting Falun Gong activists abroad to suggest she might have been brainwashed or tortured.

Thousands of Falun Gong followers were detained after the ban, and supporters abroad say more than 600 have been killed. The government denies mistreating anyone, but says some have died in hunger strikes or after refusing medical help.

Falun Gong attracted millions of members during the 1990s under the leadership of Li Hongzhi, who lives in the United States.

Ms Teng, an acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine, is married to an American, has permanent US resident status and lived in New York City.

Outside the prison, she was met by her father, Teng Yuben, who still lives in China. He said he was relieved his daughter had turned her back on the group.

As they spoke to reporters, a female prison officer sat nearby.

Ms Teng said she intended to stay in Beijing for about a month to buy medical books and study tai chi exercises before rejoining her husband.

Ms Teng was convicted of spying and leaking state secrets, for giving documents and photographs to foreign reporters.

She told reporters after her release that the information was "not objective" and harmed China's image abroad.

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