SINGAPORE, Mar 30, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Singapore police denied Friday they had singled out the Falun Gong spiritual movement after seven members of the Buddhist-inspired sect were jailed for obstruction and illegal assembly.
They were among 15 Falun Gong practitioners, including 13 foreigners, who were arrested during a memorial for members they claimed had died inside Chinese prisons.
Seven were jailed on Thursday for four weeks and eight were fined 1,000 Singapore dollars (USD 558).
In China, where Falun Gong originated, it has been outlawed as an "evil cult", but it is registered as a legal organization in Singapore.
Falun Gong members have claimed that the Singapore police were under pressure to make arrests because of the political sensitivity of their gathering.
But the police said they were acting on "a public complaint" about an illegal assembly and the Falun Buddha Society was aware of the law.
"Singapore's laws are fair and equal to all. Citizens and foreigners are treated equally," the police said in a statement, adding that the Falun Buddha Society knew a permit was required for a public gathering.
"Its members are aware of this requirement. Its members have previously been given permits where it was within the law to do so.
Of 14 Falun Gong applications in the past two years, five have been approved, one was withdrawn and eight were rejected "on the grounds that the events were likely to cause a breach of peace," police said.
The 15 Falun Gong members sentenced on Thursday were among a group of 100 who staged a memorial gathering in Singapore's MacRitchie Park on New Year's Eve.
Under Singapore law, assemblies of more than five people in public, including political meetings and rallies, must have police permission.
During sentencing, Judge Carol Ling said the police warned the sect members four times to disperse, and waited more than three hours "before taking the drastic action to arrest."
The first secretary of the Chinese embassy here, Liu Yantao, said the arrests and sentencing were internal matters for Singapore.
But he expressed indignation that some Falun Gong members used the reading of their guilty pleas in court "to slander and defame the Chinese government... through fabricating facts and inventing stories," China's official Xinhua news agency reported.
Falun Gong was outlawed in China in 1999 after it staged the largest demonstration seen in Beijing since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. ((c) 2001 Agence France Presse)