Suspect claims fears of protest unfounded
AFP, May 1, 2003
Immigration police are preparing to deport a Swedish follower of the Falungong religious sect on suspicion she planned to stage a protest during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
Special Branch police arrested Pirjo Svensson, 50, on Tuesday after finding Falungong materials and documents critical of the Chinese government among her belongings.
She was handed over to immigration police yesterday, pending her expulsion from the country.
An immigration officer said a “special request” had been received from “high above” to apprehend Mrs Svensson.
The suspect was arrested because several documents found in her possession were deemed to be potentially “detrimental to society,” the immigration officer said.
A statement released by fellow Falungong practitioners revealed the immigration bureau chief signed documents revoking Mrs Svensson’s visa after viewing a VCD confiscated from the suspect, saying it was not “suitable or proper for her to be in possession of such materials in Thailand.”
However, Mrs Svensson protested her innocence.
“There is no evidence to justify any of the accusations they have brought against me, only that the VCDs contained the truth about the persecution of innocent Falungong practitioners,” she was quoted as saying in the statement.
Falungong combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings and claims millions of followers in China. It was banned by Beijing in 1999 and branded an “evil cult”.
The movement claims hundreds of its followers have died from maltreatment while in the detention of Chinese police.
In 2001, the group was forced to cancel an international meeting of followers to be held in Bangkok after police and the Foreign Ministry warned Thailand could not be used as a platform to attack the Chinese government. The warnings were issued after China lodged an official protest with the Thai embassy in Beijing.