British Falungong journalist deported from Singapore: Falungong

Singapore - A British journalist and practitioner of the Falungong spiritual group has been deported by Singapore authorities, a newspaper has said.

Jaya Gibson was refused entry on Sunday and deported the following day to Melbourne, said Sng Beng Kok, a photojournalist with the Epoch Times, a newspaper which has Falungong members on its staff.

Gibson, a British national, was returning to Singapore where he had been assigned to cover the trial of two Falungong practitioners, Sng said.

The Straits Times, a Singapore daily, reported that they had been accused in connection with a banner they displayed outside the Chinese embassy.

Gibson had earlier gone to Geneva to attend a human rights conference, Sng said.

"He is a UK-based reporter and is on assignment here. He is also a Falungong practitioner," the photojournalist told AFP.

"He was blocked at the airport. He asked the officers whether it was because of his practice that he was being blocked and all the officers remained silent."

Gibson had also been assisting the pair's lawyer, M. Ravi, on administrative matters, Sng said.

The New York-based Epoch Times focuses on reporting of alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese communist party, especially its crackdown against Falungong, which Beijing outlawed as an "evil cult" in 1999.

Falungong, which mixes traditional Buddhist and Taoist beliefs with mass breathing and meditation exercises, is not illegal in Singapore, but the city-state bans all public protests of at least five people without permits.

Sng described Epoch Times as a "normal publication" with offices in about 30 countries, including Singapore. The newspaper's Chinese-language edition has been in operation since 2004 in the city-state and an English version was launched in January.

"Epoch Times is not a Falungong publication ... some of the (staff) members are in fact practitioners but it doesn't make it a Falungong paper," Sng said.

Sng said the Court of Appeal has deferred until October 16 the hearing of an application to stay the trial of the two Falungong practitioners, after defence lawyer Ravi was admitted to a hospital.