Falun Gong attacks Chinese minister on eve of New Zealand visit

Wellington, New Zealand - Members of the Falun Gong spiritual group, banned in China, plan to embarrass the Chinese leadership during Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to New Zealand this week by launching a court case against his commerce minister, news reports said Tuesday.

They accuse Bo Xilai, who is due to arrive with Wen's 100-strong delegation on Wednesday, of crimes against humanity in overseeing the persecution of hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners during a crackdown on the movement in China.

One Falun Gong member, Wendy Cao, told Wellington's Dominion Post that Bo 'directed, controlled, supervised and authorized the campaign of terror and persecution' against followers in China's Liaoning province while governor there from 2001 to 2004.

But lawyer Carole Curtis, who said she would file a civil case against Bo at the Auckland High Court, admitted that tight security would make it unlikely that documents could be served on him personally.

She said similar suits had been filed on behalf of Falun Gong adherents in at least five other countries, including the United States and Britain.

China outlawed the Falun Gong in 1999, claiming the meditation sect was a subversive political group that was seeking to overthrow the Beijing government.

Falun Gong members regularly perform their devotions on the footpath opposite China's embassy in Wellington in a silent protest of what they say is the persecution of the movement.

Chinese leaders have complained on previous visits to New Zealand about demonstrations mounted against them by the Falun Gong, human-rights campaigners and Tibet supporters.

New Zealand has always refused to ban such demonstrations, saying its citizens have a right to legitimate peaceful protest. Officials said police will maintain a balance between allowing peaceful protests and protecting the safety and dignity of the visitors.