A Taiwanese man who said he was detained in China due to his Falun Gong beliefs called on Tuesday for greater US attention, saying that Beijing’s efforts against the group were expanding internationally.
Chung Ting-pang was seized at an airport in the mainland in June and freed 54 days later. He told a panel in Washington that he was the 17th Taiwanese Falun Gong follower targeted in China, which has also “hired spies overseas” to uncover personal information about the spiritual movement’s members.
China “does not only persecute Falun Gong practitioners in China, they have also extended the persecution overseas toward Taiwan,” he told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which examines human rights.
“I hope that the US Congress and President (Barack) Obama publicly ask the Chinese Communist Party to stop the persecution of the Falun Gong,” he said.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said that Chung was freed after he confessed and showed remorse on charges of endangering national security, although Chung said the statement was made under duress.
Chung said that he was interrogated about sending television equipment to Falun Gong practitioners in the mainland, although he insisted that his visit was to see family in Jiangxi province.
China banned the Falun Gong – which is loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies – in 1999 after authorities became alarmed over the group’s size and organisational capacity.
Human rights groups say that Falun Gong members have faced intense pressure to renounce their beliefs, including through prisons. Activists say the Falun Gong inmates have been targeted for organs harvested in executions.
Senator Sherrod Brown, the co-chair of the commission, criticised China over its treatment of the Falun Gong as well as minorities such as Tibetans and Uygurs.
“China cannot keep responding to diversity as a threat to be suppressed. This is not an effective strategy,” said Brown, a member of Obama’s Democratic Party from Ohio.
Representative Chris Smith, a Republican co-chair of the commission, called China’s campaign against the Falun Gong “severe, brutal, ugly and vicious”.
Smith reiterated recommendations from the commission’s annual report, which called on China to allow Falun Gong practitioners to practice freely and permit lawyers to represent citizens who raise challenges.