French court asks China to investigate as part of Falun Gong lawsuits

A French court has asked China to investigate allegations of torture and repression made in two complaints filed by two Falun Gong practitioners, which has been banned by Beijing, a lawyer said.

The request was made in July following complaints filed in 2002 and 2004 against China's Vice Premier Li Lanqing and Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng.

They were based on the 1984 Torture Convention, which France ratified and allows French nationals to file complaints against abuses they allegedly suffer abroad, said William Bourdon, a lawyer for one of the complainants.

The Falun Gong, banned as an "evil cult" by China since 1999, once claimed millions of followers on the mainland but has faced a tough crackdown by the government, which considers it one of the most serious threats to its rule.

Helene Petit, a French Falun Gong practitioner told AFP she was arrested on Tienanmen Square in November 2001 with many other foreign followers of the group and beaten by police.

The request by the Paris Superior Court asked Chinese officials to investigate the role of the 610 Office, a institution formerly headed by Li Lanqing, in the repression of the Falun Gong.

The complainants charged the 610 Office was akin to the Nazi's Gestapo, specially put in place to organize the mass arrest and jailing of Falun Gong members.