Two US Congressmen Urge S. Korea to Stop Falun Gong Deportations

Washington DC, USA - On Sept. 6, Seoul immigration authorities, accompanied by local police, forced their way into the home of two Falun Gong practitioners of Chinese nationality, 26-year-old Mr. Jin and his wife Ms. Ma. They arrested the couple for lacking legal status after their applications for asylum had been denied.

Jin is being held in the Foreigners Protection Detention Center of Hwaseong Fortress for immigrants, where he faces imminent expulsion back to China. His wife is out of custody but also faces danger of repatriation to China.

A rally was held in front of the South Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., at midday on Sept. 15 to urge President Lee Myung-Bak of the Republic of Korea (ROK) not to deport Falun Gong practitioners to China, and to find a way to permit Falun Gong refugees to remain in South Korea.

If repatriated to China, Falun Gong practitioners face the likelihood of imprisonment, torture and sometimes death. Practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that involves doing meditative exercises and studying moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, have been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999.

Since 2009, South Korea has sent at least 10 Falun Gong refugees back to China, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC). Currently, 56 Falun Gong adherents residing in Korea have also been denied asylum, and consequently risk being repatriated.

“If sent back, their lives will be at grave risk because the Beijing dictatorship has declared its intention to utterly destroy the Falun Gong movement,” said California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in a letter sent to President Lee on Sept. 15. Rep. Rohrabacher is senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Rohrabacher’s letter called on the Seoul government to halt any deportations of Falun Gong members to communist China.

Legal Obligations

“No one anywhere—regardless of their social, economic or political status—has the right to torture another human being, either with their own hands, or indirectly by sending human beings into those hands. Indeed, torture is immoral and unacceptable in nations that embrace civilized behavior and the rule of law,” said California Congressman John Garamendi, in a statement read at the Washington rally.

Rep. Garamendi's moral argument is strengthened by South Korea's legal obligations. It is a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture, whose Article 3 says in part, “No State Party shall expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture..

Garamendi pointed out in his statement that South Korea is committed not to deport “refugees, who, like the Falun Gong, are fleeing religious persecution,” because it was a signatory of the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1951.

“I urge [ROK] Ambassador Han and President Lee to immediately reaffirm the commitment it made 60 years ago, and to take the first step toward restitution by granting amnesty to Shen Xianzhi and Jin,” said Congressman Garamendi. Shen Xianzhi was reported by FDIC to be a Falun Gong practitioner who is also detained at an immigrant detention center facing potential deportation.

Pressure from Chinese Regime

The Korean Falun Dafa Association (KFDA) has in the past stated that the deportations from South Korea to China are due to their government bending to pressure from the Chinese regime.

A KDFA statement, released on Jan. 24 and issued following the sudden deportation of three Falun Gong practitioners to China, links the South Korean policy of deportation to visits by two Chinese officials.

In March 2005 Zhou Yongkang, head of China’s security apparatus and a leading figure in the persecution of Falun Gong, met with the South Korean Minister of Justice. Shortly afterwards the Ministry rejected 32 Falun Gong refugee applications.

After that meeting, Chinese agents began showing up in court hearings, and Chinese media started publishing distorted stories about the applications, according to the KFDA statement

The latest round of deportations followed the visit of Li Changchun, propaganda chief and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, to South Korea in spring 2009.

He is reported to have made clear that the Korean government should “kick Falun Gong practitioners out of South Korea,” according to the KFDA statement.

Soon after South Korea is said to have started quickly rejecting practitioners’ appeals for asylum and several deportations followed.

In response to these actions by South Korea 23 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter dated Aug. 14, 2009, in which they urged South Korea “not to deport Falun Gong practitioners to China.” It referred to Falun Gong practitioners as “among the most brutally persecuted groups in the world today.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience are believed to be detained in China for their beliefs; in some detention facilities, they comprise the majority population,” according to the FDIC website.

FDIC can confirm over 3,400 Falun Gong practitioners have died in China due to torture and abuse, but indicates the real death toll is likely in the tens of thousands.

US–South Korea Alliance

The rally was hosted by Falun Gong practitioner Frank Lee. He said that President Lee (not related) is scheduled to receive the 2011 World Statesman Award next week in New York for his “dedication to world peace and democracy.” The reward is presented by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation that has worked on behalf of religious freedom, human rights, and tolerance throughout the world.

“We urge President Lee to be truly worthy of this award and stop deporting Falun Gong practitioners to face persecution in China,” said Lee.

In his letter, Congressman Rohrabacher reminds the Republic of Korea (ROK) of the support the U.S. provided recently in response to North Korean hostilities in the Yellow Sea.

“The U.S.-ROK alliance is built on opposition to Communist oppression and aggression, whether from Pyongyang or Beijing. The Falun Gong should be seen as friends to our shared values,” he says.

Noting that President Lee will be coming to Washington, DC in October for an official state visit, Rep. Rohrabacher expressed the hope that no deportations will take place. We wouldn’t want to see illegal and immoral deportations “casting a shadow over the ROK leader’s visit,” he said.