SINGAPORE—Five Falun Gong practitioners were arrested while displaying posters in a local park in Singapore on Oct. 5 and now face possible deportation and torture.
Police handcuffed four of the practitioners, citing “vandalizing public property” after the practitioners put posters on a wall. Three others, who were meditating, were not handcuffed, as “meditation is allowed,” according to police.
Police are still holding the passports of the practitioners, who are Chinese nationals. Falun Gong, a spiritual practice, is currently persecuted in China by the Chinese regime, and if the practitioners were deported to China, it is likely they would face torture.
Singapore human rights lawyer, Madasamy Ravi, who has represented Falun Gong practitioners in the past, said the arrests were unusual and perplexing. “And to handcuff them, and taking them in this manner, it is a very fundamental breach of civil liberties,” he said.
“The fact that they have impounded the passports could mean that they have taken it seriously and the likelihood of deportation is there,” said Ravi.
In Singapore, the practitioners have done their daily exercises at Esplanade Park, a popular tourist site near the Singapore River, for years. On the wall, they use Sticky Tack to put up posters illustrating the persecution in China.
The police officers claimed that the posters damaged the wall. The practitioners explained that the Sticky Tack does not leave marks and offered to sweep the ground and clean the area every morning.
Practitioners said the police handcuffed the four without warning or clear explanation. The police took all seven to the police station.
The three practitioners who had earlier meditated were asked to write statements and reveal personal information before they could be freed, while the other four, all Chinese nationals, remained handcuffed and were interrogated at the police station.
According to the four practitioners, they left the police station at around midnight, after being locked up for more than 14 hours.
In a related incident the same morning, five to six plainclothes policemen, along with a cameraman, arrived unannounced at the office of Zhang Tao, another Falun Gong practitioner, and demanded to check his car.
According to Zhang, who helps to ferry Falun Gong banners, posters, and fliers to the Esplanade Park every morning by car, the policemen confiscated his materials and took him to the police station.
“I began to sense something was very amiss when they ordered me to remove my personal possessions such as wallet, shoes, socks, and belt before asking me to sit on an iron stool inside a long dark alley where I could hear noises coming from the locked up cells,” said Zhang. “The next thing I knew, I was handcuffed.”
“I told them I needed to see the prosecutor immediately, for I have done nothing to deserve this senseless treatment.”
One of the policemen told Zhang that he would be charged with public property vandalism and questioned Zhang about the origin of the Falun Gong banners and posters, as well as how frequently he drove the materials to the Esplanade Park.
Zhang said “public property vandalism” could not justify his being handcuffed and demanded to see the prosecutor. The officers ignored his entreaties.
After more than 13 hours of detention, Zhang was allowed to return home on bail around midnight, but the police kept his passport.
The practitioners were told to return in two weeks time, on Oct. 19, for the verdict.
A spokesperson for the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center, Levi Browde, said there is a real concern that the practitioners could get deported to China.
“If they are deported they are at risk of severe persecution,” he said. “We will reach out to the Singapore government to make sure they are safe, and to explain the exact facts of the persecution in China to make sure they understand the stakes of an action such as deportation.”
Similar Incidents in Singapore:
Date: Dec. 31, 2000
Location: MacRitchie Reservoir
What happened: 15 practitioners were arrested while holding a vigil. The trial took months and seven were sentenced and jailed on March 30, 2001.
Surrounding events: Zeng Qinghong, former vice president of the People’s Republic of China, arrived in Singapore on April 1, 2001. Zeng was a key player in the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Date: April 5, 2004
Location: Esplanade Park
What happened: Two practitioners were charged with “possessing VCDs” at Esplanade Park.
Surrounding events: Singapore was negotiating a free trade deal with China at the time and in May 2004, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was invited by then Vice Premier Wu Yi to visit China.
Date: July 3, 2006
Location: Chinese Embassy
What happened: On July 21, three practitioners were arrested for holding banners saying “Stop Persecution of Falun Gong in China” in English and Chinese across from the Chinese Embassy. Police said the contents of the banner were “slanderous to the Chinese Embassy” and might “obstruct and disturb” passersby.
Surrounding events: On July 3, 2006, Li Lanqing, former vice premier and former head of the 610 Office in charge of persecuting Falun Gong traveled to Singapore to receive an honorary doctorate from the National University of Singapore upon invitation by Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor of Singapore.
Date: Oct. 5, 2009
Location: Esplanade Park
What happened: Falun Gong practitioners who were exercising were arrested by police officers who claimed they had “vandalized public property.”
Surrounding events: Chinese Communist Party head Hu Jintao will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Singapore from 12-14 November 2009.