- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2000

BEIJING A New York acupuncturist who helped publicize China's crackdown on the Falun Gong meditation sect was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for spying.

Teng Chunyan, a Chinese citizen and a U.S. permanent resident, was convicted by a Beijing court of disclosing national security information to foreigners, a U.S. diplomat said.

The Falun Gong member's father confirmed the sentence to an official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Neither Teng nor her husband, a U.S. citizen whom the diplomat would not identify, have signed waivers allowing the release of personal information about them, he said.

Prosecutors and officials at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court did not respond to telephone queries. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue would not confirm the sentence but said, "The relevant parts of the Chinese government are handling the case according to law."

Teng joined Falun Gong in New Jersey and entered China earlier this year to gather information on the ban against the sect.

Using the pseudonym Hannah Li, Teng tipped off foreign reporters in China about sect members' protests against the ban on the group and arranged interviews with them.

A purported copy of her indictment, released by a Hong Kong-based rights group, specifically accused Teng of giving a digital camera to an accomplice, who then sneaked into a center outside Beijing where Falun Gong members were being held. Teng then gave foreign news media the film.

Detained in May, Teng was indicted two months later and tried during a Nov. 23 hearing. Only her lawyers were allowed at the hearing.

The secrecy that shrouded her case is typical in trials involving the vague and partly unpublished laws against spying. The 16-month-old crackdown against Falun Gong is among China's most sensitive political issues.

Teng faced up to 10 years in prison. Her relatively light sentence followed protests by the U.S. government. A State Department spokesman last week called Teng's case "deeply disturbing."

Falun Gong grew to millions of members during the 1990s, offering what it claims are a health-giving exercise regimen and morally uplifting philosophy derived from Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk now living in the United States.

Alarmed by the size and organizational prowess of the group, China banned it in July 1999 as a dangerous sect and has sent hundreds of members to prison and labor camps.

[Beijing also is cracking down on banned places of worship, according to the London Daily Telegraph.

[The Telegraph yesterday reported that Chinese authorities in the city of Wenzhou have torn down or blown up more than 200 illegal churches and temples.

[A further 239 small places of worship in the east coast city, many of them linked to the underground Roman Catholic church, have been forced to close, the paper said.

[The places of worship closed and demolished in Wenzhou were reported to include Buddhist and Taoist temples as well as Catholic and Protestant churches, the Telegraph said.]

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