Founder of China Sect Heads to U.S.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Chinese dissident, jailed on Guam 13 months ago after fleeing China, will be allowed to come to the United States to await the outcome of immigration proceedings, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Zhang Hongbao, 47, founded China's outlawed Zhong Gong meditation sect and was falsely accused by the Chinese government of raping 20 women, forgery and illegal boundary crossing, according to his lawyer, Robert L. Shapiro.

I convinced them that Mr. Zhang would be executed if returned to China, and he posed no flight risk if admitted to the mainland while his case was pending, Shapiro said.

Hawaii's Immigration and Naturalization Service office ordered Zhang's release. He is expected to arrive in California or Washington state this week. A federal immigration judge had denied Zhang's asylum request in September.

Zhang founded the Zhong Gong sect in 1987. Millions practice its exercises, which are similar to traditional Chinese health practices.

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.

AP-NY-04-17-01 2347EDT

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.