- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Chinese dissidents in the United States claim the Clinton administration is capitulating to China by letting a Chinese sect leader sit in a jail in the U.S. territory, Guam, rather than act on his asylum bid.

Zhang Hongbao, who fled to Hong Kong from China in 1999 after his meditation group Zhong Gong was outlawed, was stopped in January in Guam when he tried to enter on a fake passport, U.S. officials say.

A U.S. immigration court denied his asylum request in July, but Mr. Zhang, 46, continues to sit in prison in Guam. Appeals on the immigration decision are expected both from Mr. Zhang's lawyer and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to U.S. sources.

Officials at the State Department and the INS would not discuss the case.

China has charged the sect leader with rape and is pressing the United States for his extradition.

Ye Ning, a Chinese dissident based in Washington, accused the Clinton administration of refusing to grant asylum to Mr. Zhang in an effort to "cozy up to China like it normally does."

"The man's life is in danger if he returns to China. He deserves asylum, not jail," said Mr. Ye, of the China Democracy Movement, a U.S.-based organization.

Complicating the case is the signing last year by China and the United States of a cooperation agreement in criminal matters.

Mr. Zhang's group, Zhong Gong, a meditation group he started in 1987 which claims millions of followers, was banned last year along with Falun Gong and other organizations practicing qigong, which strives for health and spirituality through breathing exercises and meditation.

Mr. Ye was joined at the interview by Yan Qingxin, described as the deputy chief executive officer for Zhong Gong. Also participating was Richard Long, founder of a pro-democracy publication on the Internet, China VIP References, which reports to Chinese audiences on the advances of democracy worldwide.

Mr. Long claimed the rape charges against Mr. Zhang were "trumped up" and said that if convicted, he could receive the death penalty in China.

"It's an obvious asylum case," Mr. Long said.

Mr. Ye is one of the more outspoken dissidents in the U.S.-based China Democracy Movement, which has both defended and criticized Chinese dissidents.

At a recent congressional subcommittee hearing focusing on celebrated dissident Wei Jinsheng, Mr. Ye and others disrupted the proceedings with shouts criticizing Mr. Wei for trying to take over a movement he had no role in creating.

Mr. Zhang was born in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin in what was formerly knows as Manchuria. He later traveled to Beijing, where he learned a form of qigong laced with claims of supernatural powers.

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