Two Falungong women released

Singapore, China - TWO female members of the Falungong religious group — who went on hunger strikes in prison to protest their conviction — have been released after their families paid their fines.

Madam Ng Chye Huay, 41, and Madam Cheng Lu Jin, 38, were released on Tuesday afternoon after being detained at the Changi Women's Prison for about six days.

The two housewives were fined $20,000 and $24,000, respectively on April 27 for unlawful assembly and distribution of illegal VCDs about the sect, while practising Falungong at Esplanade Park between November 2002 and February 2003.

However, both had refused to pay the fine and were detained instead.

During their detainment, the women went on a hunger strike. Madam Cheng, a China-born permanent resident, was eventually hospitalised and had to be put on a drip.

The women's families, worried about their health, paid the remainder of the fines "under tremendous pressure", said Falungong member Zuan Lim at a press conference organised by the group yesterday.

Madam Ng, a Singaporean, paid $13,000, while Madam Cheng paid $17,000, after taking into account the period of their detentions.

Both women, who were at the press conference, were chatty and did not show signs of ill health.

Calling her imprisonment an "injustice", Madam Ng said: "I told the guards I had done no wrong and I wanted to go home. Good people shouldn't be in prison."

Madam Cheng added: "It was not my wish to have the fine paid. It was my husband who paid the fine."

The women said they have appealed against the conviction and will have their appeal heard in July.