China Wants US To Repatriate Zhong Gong cult Founder

BEIJING (Dow Jones)--China said Thursday it has asked the U.S. to repatriate a Chinese dissident who was recently released by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from its custody. The demand is seen as an additional thorn in the already tense relations between the two nations, which are still grappling with the fallout of the mid-air collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet. Zhang Hongbao, 47, founded China's outlawed Zhong Gong meditation sect, and is being accused by the Chinese government of a series of crimes including rape, forgery and training terrorists. "Zhang Hongbao is a criminal suspect...The U.S. side should return (him) to China," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue said in a briefing. Zhang was detained after he arrived on the U.S. territory of Guam with a fake passport 13 months ago. He is currently on the U.S. mainland and is seeking asylum after China banned the sect, which claims millions of adherents. Chinese authorities began cracking down on Zhang's group shortly after a ban was imposed in 1999 on a similar and better known sect, Falun Gong. -By Ramoncito dela Cruz, Dow Jones Newswires; 8610 6588-5848;