Singapore Jails Falun Gong Faithful

SINGAPORE (AP) - Seven followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were sentenced Thursday to four weeks in jail for obstructing police during a vigil in a Singapore park.

Five men and one woman among those jailed are Chinese citizens. Another man is Singaporean.

Eight other Falun Gong members were fined $550 each for taking part in an unauthorized assembly when they attended the Dec. 31 vigil honoring followers who reportedly died in police custody in China.

All 15 had pleaded guilty to the charges.

In imposing the sentences, Subordinate Court Judge Carol Ling said those jailed ``have manifested an utter disregard for the authority'' of the police.

They showed ``persistent defiance'' during the vigil, ignoring repeated police warnings to disperse and blocking officers who tried to seize their placards, the judge said.

Last week, the Chinese Falun Gong followers asked to be fined rather than incarcerated, saying jail terms might get them sent back to China.

Most are studying and working in Singapore, and say they fear Singapore will revoke their visas and make it difficult for them to get visas elsewhere.

Liu Yan Tao, first secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Singapore, told reporters the Chinese government ``understood and respected'' the Singapore court's action. Liu attended Thursday's court hearing.

The Chinese Embassy in Singapore said in a statement: ``We hope that the international community better recognizes Falun Gong's nature as a cult and its potential dangers, and understands and respects China's stance on the Falun Gong problem.''

Human rights groups say more than 100 Falun Gong followers have died in detention in China and thousands more have been detained since Beijing banned the sect in July 1999, calling it a dangerous cult and a threat to the Communist Party's authority.

There are about 1,000 Falun Gong followers in Singapore, a mainly ethnic Chinese city-state of 4 million people.

Falun Gong is not outlawed in Singapore, but public assemblies require prior written permission from police.

AP-NY-03-29-01 1131EST

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.