New Zealand diplomats are probing the alleged detention at Hong Kong airport of a veteran campaigner for the Falun Gong spiritual group, an official said yesterday.
Sect members said Jenny Lee, an elderly Chinese-born campaigner who now lives in New Zealand, was being held in the former British colony on unspecified grounds.
“She was detained on Monday night and we have not been able to find out what for,” said Lu Jie, a Hong Kong-based member of the group, which is outlawed in mainland China.
“All she was able to tell us in a quick phone call was that she was being held and that her flight ticket had been taken from her.”
New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokesman Jonathan Schwass yesterday said the department understood the woman had since left Hong Kong.
She had not sought any assistance from the ministry.
A spokeswoman at the New Zealand consulate-general confirmed it had been asked to investigate the alleged detention of a New Zealand passport holder believed connected to the sect.
“We are trying to get information but so far Hong Kong immigration have not given us any,” she said.
Lee, believed to be in her 60s, was among 16 practitioners of the Buddhism-inspired sect who in 2002 were arrested for obstruction during a rowdy protest outside China’s representative Hong Kong office.
She is believed to have travelled to Hong Kong to visit relatives and to speak to her lawyer about other Falun Gong matters.
The Falun Gong once claimed millions of followers on the mainland but has been outlawed as an “evil cult” by Beijing since 1999.
Members maintain it involves peaceful and harmless yoga-style meditation practices.
The group claims that at least 1600 of its members have been tortured or beaten to death in China since a crackdown ordered four years ago largely drove the organisation underground.
Although the sect is not banned in Hong Kong, which has its own government and legal system, members have often been stopped there by immigration officers, prompting accusations that Hong Kong is acting on the orders of officials in Beijing.
The city has repeatedly denied sect claims that it keeps a blacklist of members China wants kept from the territory.