One of Australia’s top immigration lawyers, who took the Federal Government to court over the Malaysia solution to illegal boat arrivals, will represent the group of ten Chinese nationals who landed on Australian shores almost two weeks ago.
The unusual refugee case, which involves eight Falun Gong practitioners and two other Chinese asylum seekers, will be represented pro–bono by David Manne from Melbourne’s Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre.
“I can confirm that we have agreed to provide legal assistance to the clients as requested,” Mr Manne told The Epoch Times. He declined to give further information until the case is better established.
The ten Chinese nationals were rescued off the shores of Australia on April 5 after they sent out an SOS message. Their vessel, travelling from Malaysia, had run out of water and was in need of urgent restocking and repairs.
The asylum seekers originally insisted on travelling further to New Zealand in their small yacht, which was bought by one of the refugees in Malaysia.
John Andress, the Queensland Falun Dafa Association spokesperson, said the group was originally prepared to risk the dangerous journey, fearing that being in the Australian refugee detention system would remind them of the persecution they experienced in China.
However, after an intense meeting with the immigration officials last week, which lasted over six hours, the group agreed to apply for refugee status and is now believed to be in low-grade detention at the Darwin Airport Lodge.
“They are extremely thankful for the compassionate treatment of the Australian Government and are prepared to follow all the laws in order to receive refugee status here,” said Mr Andress.
There are believed to be eight Falun Gong practitioners—five members from a family of six—and three non-related adults. The tenth person is a democracy activist.
The practitioners said they are escaping persecution in China for their beliefs in Falun Gong–an ancient spiritual discipline, which is based on the principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance, and a set of meditative exercises.
Falun Gong saw unprecedented popularity in China in the 1990s when the number of practitioners reached up to 100 million. However, then-leader of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin launched a violent campaign of persecution against the practice in 1999, which has continued unabated.
Human rights groups have reported the widespread use of torture against Falun Gong prisoners in China’s notorious labor camp system, including harvesting organs from still living practitioners to sell for profit.
Mr Manne, who will represent the group, has been an avid fighter for the rights of refugees in Australia. Last year he challenged the Federal Government’s proposal to process asylum boat arrivals in Malaysia in Federal Court and won the case on grounds that Malaysia lacked necessary domestic and international laws to protect refugees.