Falungong demand freedom for arrested members

Bangkok, Thailand - A dozen of Falungong adherents staged a peaceful rally opposite the Chinese embassy yesterday, calling for the release of five Chinese followers being detained at Bangkok immigration office for the past three weeks.

They vowed to hold a mediation protest every Friday until the police free the five detainees.

The gathering also aims at protesting against Chinese government's persecution of Falungong followers in China.

Falungong is an amalgam of religions, meditation and exercises that the Chinese government considers an evil cult.

Paisal Suriyawongpaisal, a scholar on China and Falungong practitioner, said the Thai public should learn more about how Beijing has violated human rights of their own people.

He also condemned the arrest of Falungong members by Thai officials last month, saying that the detention demonstrated that Bangkok considered appeasing China more important than protection of basic human rights.

Eight Chinese refugees, who were members of the spiritual movement, have been arrested after protesting in front of the Chinese embassy for a week.

They were all persons of concern (PoC) under the protection the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Two young practitioners were released right away, but another six protesters, including a four-year-old Huang Ying, were detained at the Immigration Detention Center at Suan Plu.

Huang Ying was released from the detention center to family friends last week, but her father is still behind bars.

``We are concerned of their plight since we've learned that the officers would not release them soon. We've already filed a complaint to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva,'' said the Canadian Jan Jekielek, member of the Falungong Human Rights Working Group.

A 14-year-old girl Wang Anqi, who was arrested and released earlier, said the police have asked UNHCR to guarantee that the detainees would not stage a protest again and they would be released.