China Falungong member gets S Korea refugee status

China outlawed the Falungong as an "evil cult" in mid-1999.

Seoul: South Korea`s appeal court on Monday granted refugee status to a Chinese female member of the Falungong spiritual sect, saying she was likely to face persecution back home.

"There are substantial grounds for believing that she may face persecution from the Chinese government because of her activities in South Korea," the court said in a decision which overturned a lower court ruling.

The woman, who became a Falungong practitioner in 2004 after arriving in Seoul, sought refugee status last year. The Justice Ministry rejected her application, and a lower court ruled that her motive appeared to have been to secure extended stay in South Korea.

She took the case to the appeal court, saying she would face persecution at home because she had played an active part in rallies denouncing China for cracking down on Falungong followers.

China outlawed the Falungong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an "evil cult" in mid-1999. Practitioners have sometimes faced brutal repression there.

In early 2008, a Seoul court granted refugee status to two Chinese Falungong practitioners.

But the court rejected similar petitions from 30 other people, saying they could not prove they had been persecuted in China and they did not play leading roles in spreading the group`s teachings in South Korea.

In July last year, two Chinese Falungong members were repatriated, triggering criticism from activists that Seoul was being pressured by Beijing.

Bureau Report