Japanese demands China free wife held as Falun Gong devotee

Reuters, Oct. 25, 2002

LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) – A Japanese man pleaded on Thursday for the release of his Chinese-born wife, jailed in a labour camp in China for publicizing the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned by Beijing’s communist rulers.

Atsushi Kaneko said he had flown to this remote luxury resort on Mexico’s Baha peninsula to publicize his cause at a weekend gathering of leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries attending the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

“I have travelled thousands of miles from Japan to be here,” Kaneko said. “The reason for my coming here is to ask more people to help rescue my wife from torture in a labour camp in China.”

Just this week, the movement said it had sued Chinese President Jiang Zemin in a U.S. court for his alleged role in the jailing of the group’s followers.

Kaneko said he visited his wife, Yoko, in August in a Chinese labour camp where she is serving an 18-month term. “Not only has she lost weight, but I could see she was suffering mentally,” he said.

Yoko disappeared in May on a visit to her parents and Kaneko said her family later learned she had been arrested for publicizing the Falun Gong.

“She was slow and quiet, not even able to fix her eyes on me,” Kaneko said. “I could not help wondering if she could survive the 18 months’ labour camp life and come back to Japan alive.”

Mexican highway police watched but took no action as about 20 seated demonstrators, some wearing their trademark yellow T-shirts printed with the slogan “China — Free the jailed Falun Gong practitioners,” sat cross-legged by the side of the road, their hands pressed together in meditation.


The demonstrators said they planned to continue their roadside vigil until after Jiang’s arrival later on Friday.

Falun Gong’s U.S.-based information centre said on Tuesday it had filed a suit in an Illinois court and handed Jiang’s guards a legal complaint in Chicago, where he was visiting ahead of a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Texas on Friday.

Falun Gong alleges that more than 1,600 followers have died as a result of abuse in police custody or detention centres since Beijing banned the movement in 1999 as an “evil cult”.

China says only a handful have died in custody and those were from suicide or natural causes. It accuses Falun Gong of brainwashing its members and causing the deaths of at least 1,900 people through suicide or refusing medical treatment.

The activists staging the demonstration on the outskirts of the smart resort town of Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula unfurled banners in Spanish reading “Truth, Compassion, Tolerance”, and “The Falun Gong is good”.

Falun Gong was outlawed in China in 1999 after thousands of adherents surrounded the walled leadership compound in Beijing to demand recognition of their faith, but instead shocked leaders into ordering a nationwide crackdown on the group.

Activists have urged Bush to press Jiang on human rights when the two leaders meet in Crawford, Texas on Friday.

Analysts say Bush is expected to soft-pedal on the sensitive issue to secure China’s acquiescence to U.S. plans for possible military action against Iraq.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 25, 2002.
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