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China Jail Term for Sect Member

December 14, 2000

BEIJING (AP) _ China confirmed Thursday that a China-born U.S. resident who helped publicize Beijing’s crackdown on the Falun Gong sect has been sentenced to three years in jail for spying.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue suggested there was little chance of early release or deportation to the United States for Teng Chunyan, who was sentenced Tuesday for ``spying and leaking state secrets.″

Teng, a China-born U.S. resident, returned to China earlier this year to focus attention on the crackdown on Falun Gong, which the government banned as a social menace in July 1999.

Under the pseudonym Hannah Li, she tipped off China-based foreign reporters to protests by Falun Gong adherents and arranged interviews with them.

Detained in May, Teng was indicted two months later and tried in a secretive Nov. 23 hearing.

Teng had been expected to receive a minimum of 10 years in prison. Her relatively light sentence followed protests on her behalf from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. State Department.

Zhang, the Chinese spokeswoman, denied any connection between the U.S. interventions and the length of Teng’s sentence. Asked if Teng might be deported before completing her sentence, Zhang said Beijing usually reserves such actions for foreigners, suggesting that as a Chinese citizen Teng was ineligible.

``China is a country ruled by law. The handling of such cases has always been in accordance with the law,″ Zhang said.

Falun Gong attracted millions of members during the 1990s, preaching the spiritual and moral benefits of its exercise regimen and 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 group’s size and ability to mobilize, China banned it as a dangerous cult and has sent thousands of members to prison and labor camps.

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