Zhang Hongbao in Blast Furnace

A Documentary on How the Outstanding Spiritual Leader

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Agence France Presse: Chinese Mystical Leader Detained in U.S. Launches Hunger Strike

WASHINGTON, Dec 19, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse)
The leader of China's mystical Zhonggong group said Monday he had launched a hunger strike, claiming he was facing inhumane jail conditions while pressing his appeal for asylum in the United States.

Zhang Hongbao, 46, was granted the right to remain in the United States in September, but his asylum request is still pending and he remains in detention in Guam.

China has vigorously opposed his application, branding him a criminal and has accused him of raping several followers and demanded his deportation.

Zhang said in a statement received here that he had started to refuse food on December 14 and claimed his action had already led to an improvement in his conditions.

"The ultimate goal of this hunger strike is to demand my freedom according to the decision by the immigration court in Hawaii," he wrote in a letter released through dissident organizations.

"I hope my overdue release be realized before the end of the Clinton administration," he said, adding that only by giving him freedom could officials prove that US justice was impartial and free of political influence.

The US Justice Department refused to comment on individual cases, but said that Zhang had been granted protection by virtue of a law which grants refuge to people deemed likely to face torture in their homelands.

A department official said allegations against Zhang were being carefully studied, before a decision could be made on the asylum request.

A court in Guam ruled in December ruled that Zhang should remain in detention because his life could be placed in danger if freed.

But human rights groups claim that move was an attempt to dodge the political fallout of the case, and its potential impact on U.S.-China relations.

Zhonggong, along with the better known Falun Gong, is considered a major threat to Communist Party rule.

Rooted in traditional Chinese martial arts exercises, both have commanded a following of tens of millions, many disillusioned by growing corruption and social problems in China.

China banned the Falun Gong movement in July last year and has since jailed core leaders for up to 18 years and sent tens of thousands to re-education camps. ((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)


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