Falun Gong brings charges against Chinese

Paris, France - Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement brought charges before a French court on Friday against a visiting Chinese minister whom they accuse of torture.

Complaints were lodged on behalf of the three Falun Gong members before a Paris public prosecutor against Zhu Yongkang, the Chinese minister in charge of public order who was on a visit to France.

One of the plaintiffs, Li Heping, 35, alleged that he had been put in a labour camp where he was deprived of sleep and harassed, according to the text of his complaint lodged at the court.

Another Falun Gong member, Dai Ying, 48, claimed she had been force-fed by Chinese authorities, while the third member, Mo

Zhengfang, said she had been struck by a policeman and forced to leave China for England.

The three, who now live as refugees in Britain and Norway, demanded that French authorities confront Yongkang over the claims during his five-day visit to France. He met on Tuesday with his French counterpart, Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy.

China outlawed Falun Gong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an "evil cult" in mid-1999 and practitioners have subsequently faced often brutal repression.

The sect has alleged that tens of thousands of its members have been put in concentration camps, where members who refuse to give up their beliefs face torture and possible death.

The US government said earlier this year that investigating officials had found no evidence in northern China to support claims that Falun Gong followers had been killed and their organs harvested in concentration camps.

China has confirmed that Falun Gong members were held in a northeastern Chinese hospital, but denied claims by the sect that thousands of its members were killed there.

Falun Gong has tried in the past to persuade countries to pressure China over the alleged abuse. In 2004 they brought unsuccessful charges in France against Li Changchun, a top official of China's ruling Communist party.