January 21, 2004 Wednesday

OTTAWA -- The RCMP is keeping a watchlist of 15 high-ranking Chinese officials, accused of torturing and oppressing members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

If any of the officials sets foot in Canada, the RCMP will "look into" their alleged criminal actions, Constable Nathalie Deschenes said.

"We have a list of names that was given to us," said Deschenes, an RCMP media relations officer. "In the event that someone that is suspected of being part of crimes against humanity is in Canada, certainly the RCMP would be looking into it, and if a criminal investigation is warranted, we will do that."

Deschenes said the RCMP is not currently investigating anyone with relation to the Falun Gong movement.

The list of suspects was presented to the RCMP by the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, a group that represents Falun Gong practitioners.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, applicants cannot be admitted to Canada if there are reasonable grounds to believe they have perpetrated a crime against humanity.

But the immigration department has not taken a stance on whether the reported torture and incarceration of Falun Gong practitioners in China constitutes such a crime.

"There is no particular stand of the department on Falun Gong," said spokesman Jean-Pierre Morin.

The list of accused includes Jiang Zemin, the 72-year-old former president of China and now chairman of the country's Central Military Commission, and Liu Qi, the mayor of Beijing. It also includes several officials of China's 6-10 office, which Falun Gong practitioners accuse of masterminding the harassment, arrest, torture and execution of their [practitioners].

It is not known whether any of the people on the list has any intention of visiting Canada.

David Matas, the lawyer for the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, said the association intends to continue adding names to the list until it numbers in the tens of thousands.