Protests Grow Over Deportations of Falun Gong Practitioners
- Jin Jingzhe, carrying
red-tassled baton, leads the marching band of a Korean chapter of Falun Gong
during a parade at a civic festival in Incheon in October 2010. Seoul police
arrested Mr. Jin earlier this month after immigration authorities denied his
appeal for asylum. Activists are now trying to prevent his deportation to
Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who want to escape persecution at home are
learning that South Korea is not a country where they can seek refuge.
South Korea since 2009 has deported 10 Falun Gong practitioners back to China
after courts here refused to grant them refugee status and asylum. Some of them
haven’t been heard from since their return to China, according to other Chinese
asylum-seekers in South Korea and human rights organizations.
South Korea has denied asylum to more than 40 other Chinese Falun Gong
practitioners. It’s unclear whether South Korea has granted refugee status to
anyone associated with Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that began in China
about 20 years but that alarmed Chinese authorities in the 1990s because of its
size and independence from the government. The Chinese leadership officially
banned it in 1999 and began to imprison practitioners.
On Sept. 6, Seoul police and South Korean immigration authorities arrested
Jin Jingzhe, 26 years old, and his wife Ma Yue. The couple arrived in South
Korea from China in 2008. Mr. Jin, who practices Falun Gong, sought asylum but
was denied. He’s now being held in a detention center in Suwon and could be
deported any day. His wife was freed.
Representatives at the Immigration Department and Justice Ministry said they
couldn’t discuss Mr. Jin’s case.
Supporters of Mr. Jin have marshaled letters from human rights groups, 23
members of the U.S. Congress and the vice president of the European Parliament
to President Lee Myung-bak urging him to intercede in Mr. Jin’s case. In one
such letter, Terri Marsh of the Human Rights Law Foundation in Washington wrote,
“It is a certainty that Mr. Jin will be subject to torture if he is returned to
Reached by phone at the Hwaseong Fortress Foreigners’ Detention Center, Mr.
Jin said he was fine but declined to discuss the situation. He referred
questions to his legal advisor, Oh Se-yeol, who also a spokesman for the Korea
Falun Dafa Association, which is the local chapter of the organization.
Mr. Oh said he may ask Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin to grant a humanitarian
stay of the immigration court’s rejection of asylum status.
- The Wall Street
- Oh Se-yeol, legal advisor to
“At this stage, filing an objection is the only option,” Mr. Oh said. “If it
is rejected again, Jin might be repatriated. The possibility would sharply
He added, “We hope the public will recognize the urgent situation of Falun
Gong practitioners and the Korean government will make a humanitarian decision
for Falun Gong refugees.”
Several human-rights groups staged a news conference late Monday about Falun
Gong in South Korea. They said that, while the asylum hearings and deportations
are in line with South Korean law, they may violate the nation’s
responsibilities as a signer of United Nations treaties on the status and rights
of refugees and the convention against torture.
– Soo-ah Shin contributed to this report.