August 30, 2006

( A Chinese former staffer with the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a labor camp for his alleged links with the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect, the foundation and Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Bu Dongwei, 38, was taken from his Beijing home by police in May and sentenced June 19 to a Re-education Through Labor camp under rules letting police impose relatively brief labor camp terms without trial, Amnesty said in a news release.

The human rights group said Bu, also known as David Bu, was accused of "resisting the implementation of national laws" and "disturbing social order" after police found Falun Gong literature in his house.

The group attracted millions of followers before China banned it in 1999 [...] then launched an often brutal campaign to destroy the organization and force members to recant their beliefs.

Falun Gong mixes Buddhism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese thought with meditation and exercises that adherents say improve health and well-being [Editor's note: for correct introduction of Falun Dafa, see].

Jennifer Betti, an Asia Foundation spokeswoman in San Francisco, said the group learned of Bu's sentencing two weeks ago. She said the foundation was previously unaware of Bu having any involvement with Falun Gong.

The reason for the delay in the release of information about Bu's sentencing was not known, but China rarely makes such cases public.

An officer who answered calls to Beijing's Reeducation Through Labor Bureau said the office did not accept media inquiries.

Calls to Bu's in-laws in Beijing constantly rang busy on Wednesday - in China, often a sign that authorities are interfering with the line.

Betti said the foundation was concerned over Bu's case, but was not worried about it affecting its work in China, where it runs programs providing legal aid, education and health services to female migrants and rural Chinese.

She said the foundation had been in touch with Bu's family, but declined to comment on any actions it might have taken on his behalf.

Bu's wife, Lou Hongwei, who lives in the United States, earlier told The Associated Press that she and her husband have been Falun Gong practitioners since 1996.

They served between eight and 10 months in separate Beijing labor camps in 2000, after they sent a letter to Chinese leaders asking them to reevaluate the Falun Gong ban.

Falun Gong and many human rights groups allege widespread torture of practitioners in Chinese detention centers.

The spiritual group claims hundreds of its followers have died in Chinese police custody.