Falun Gong man loses fight to stay

A Chinese man who fears persecution in his homeland for practising with the Falun Gong group today lost an appeal to stay in Australia.

The man, who can’t be identified, took his case to the Federal Court after a Refugee Review Tribunal found that his study of Falun Gong meditation, outlawed in China, was contrived to obtain a protection visa.

The Federal Court today dismissed the man’s appeal, meaning he must return to China as soon as possible.

The man, who came to Australia in 1996, claims to have joined Falun Gong in China in 1994 and practised with a Melbourne Falun Gong group in Flagstaff Gardens from 1997.

He claimed that in China anyone associated with Falun Gong would be treated as a criminal and arrested and said he feared persecution if forced to return.

Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is a spiritual health movement whose followers preach “truth, compassion and forbearance” and practise meditation and tai chi-like exercises.

The movement has been branded an evil cult in China and banned since 1999.

Falun Gong has responded with ongoing claims of persecution, torture and murder of its practitioners by Chinese authorities.

But the Refugee Review Tribunal did not accept that the man was ever a genuine or committed practitioner of Falun Gong and did not believe he would be identified as a practitioner and subjected to persecution in China.

The tribunal said a letter put to it by the man which claimed to have been written by a Falun Gong group in China’s Zhabei district, claiming that the man would be arrested if he returned to China undermined his case.

They said information cited in relation to Falun Gong found that a practising group would not have an office or official stationery.

The man appealed the decision to the Federal Court and today judges Jeffery Spender, Brian Tamberlin and Susan Kenny dismissed his appeal, ordering him to pay the costs of the respondent, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Philip Ruddock.

After today’s judgment, an Immigration Department spokeswoman said she was not able to comment on individual cases, but confirmed that an unlawful non-citizen who had exhausted all their legal options was required by law to be removed from Australia as soon as practicable.

A spokesman from Melbourne’s Falun Gong group said the idea that Falun Gong practitioners would not be persecuted in China unless they were seen to be genuine or committed to the movement was not true.

“Anyone who is a practitioner and is involved in just practising or raising awareness is to be persecuted, it’s an official policy of the government,” the spokesman said.

Federal legislation prevents the court from publishing the real names of applicants in immigration cases, because if they are unsuccessful they may face difficulty when they return to their home country.

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