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China Frees Activist After Serving Time • Wednesday March 19, 2003

AP, Mar. 19, 2003
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING (AP)–A Chinese-born New York City woman imprisoned for publicizing details of China’s crackdown on Falun Gong was released Wednesday after serving almost three years.

Teng Chunyan, 40, walked out of a women’s prison on the southern outskirts of Beijing after being released a month early due to good behavior, according to authorities.

“Falun Gong is purely an evil cult,” Teng told reporters, echoing the communist government’s description of the group. “It has a definite political aspect.”

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.

The press office of China’s Cabinet arranged for foreign reporters to be on hand for her release.

Teng returned to China after the government banned Falun Gong in 1999 as a threat to public safety and communist rule. She informed foreign reporters in advance about protests and helped them to meet practitioners. She was detained in May 2000.

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 with its mix of slow-motion exercises and an amalgam of Buddhist and Taoist philosophies with the ideas of its founder, a former Chinese government clerk who now lives in the United States.

Teng, an acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, is married to an American, has permanent U.S. resident status and lived in the New York City borough of Queens.

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 but did not intervene.

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

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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