Taiwanese Falun Gong followers to file lawsuit

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Six Taiwanese Falun Gong followers plan to file a lawsuit in Taiwan accusing former Chinese President Jiang Zemin of persecuting them and aiming to wipe out the popular spiritual movement in China, a member said on Thursday.

The Taiwanese had been detained when traveling in China during the past two years, and they plan to file the lawsuit in Taiwan’s High Court on Monday, citing a Taiwanese law for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, said Chu Wan-chi, a spokeswoman of Falun Gong’s Taiwan branch.

“They were victims of China’s genocidal act that attempts to wipe out part or all of the spiritual group,” Chu told The Associated Press.

Chu said she believed the Taiwanese court has jurisdiction over Chinese citizens because Taiwan’s government officially claims its territory includes mainland China.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. After retreating to Taiwan, the then-ruling Nationalist government still claimed sovereignty over the mainland. In recent years, the Taiwanese government has acknowledged it only ruled Taiwan, but the constitution has not been rewritten to give up the territorial claim.

The former Chinese leader would likely ignore a subpoena to appear in court. But filing the lawsuit would still highlight the brutality of the crackdown on Falun Gong, Chu said.

Over the past two years, Falun Gong followers around the world have filed at least a dozen lawsuits in foreign courts against Jiang and other Chinese officials they accuse of rights abuses. As head of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang was responsible for the crackdown, they alleged.

Taiwanese have frequently rendered support to Falun Gong practitioners in China. Beijing has barred many Falun Gong followers from the mainland and has accused Taiwanese saboteurs of breaking into TV broadcasts on the mainland earlier this year.

But the Taiwan government has avoided getting involved in the sensitive issue.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in China in the late 1990s with its regimen of meditation and light calisthenics and philosophy mixing Buddhism and Taoism. China banned the group in 1999 as an “evil cult” and launched a propaganda campaign to demonize it.

Falun Gong alleges the Chinese government has detained and mistreated thousands of followers and killed hundreds through torture or abuse. China denies abusing anyone but says some have died in custody because they committed suicide or refused food and medical care.

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