3 August 2001 / 02:13 AM

The government has been urged to apply for the release of a Hong Kong man who is believed to be held in a mainland detention centre for being a member of the Falun Gong.

Chan Yuk-to, who became a Hong Kong permanent resident in 1998, and has been a Falun Gong practitioner for two years, was believed to have been arrested at his home in Beijing by police on July 12.

His mother Lau Yuk-ling, who is also a Falun Gong practitioner, said her husband went to Beijing on July 28 to request to visit his son, who they suspected was detained at the Balizhuang Detention Centre in Beijing's Chaoyang District. His request was rejected. Ms Lau said the police even refused to disclose the reason for her son's arrest.

"I feel anxious, his life is being threatened every minute," she said.

"The mainland authorities have adopted many brutal methods to torture Falun Gong practitioners. At least 258 people have died during the last two years of crackdown."

Ms Lau yesterday sent a letter to the Director of Immigration Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong yesterday afternoon, asking the government to help gain her son's release. She said she had also sent a letter to Premier Zhu Rongji asking the relevant authority to release her son.

Mr Chan, 34, was born and raised in Beijing, graduating from an architecture and engineering college before moving to Hong Kong in June 1991. He became a permanent Hong Kong resident in 1998 before returning to Beijing to work in August 1999. Ms Lau said her son had not practiced Falun Gong publicly in Beijing, and had not participated in any demonstrations held by the [group]'s organisations there and there was no reason for Beijing police to arrest him.

"He is a law-abiding citizen," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association said Mr Chan was the second Hong Kong [group] member to be arrested and detained by the mainland authorities. She said that 11 months ago, Hong Kong resident Chu O-ming, together with other mainland practitioners, was arrested for filing a lawsuit against President Jiang Zemin with the People's Supreme Procuratorate.

"The rescue of detained Hong Kong Falun Gong practitioners is an undeniable obligation of the Hong Kong SAR government," the spokeswoman said. She added that in order not to let Hong Kong develop into another city in China "under the brutal regime of Jiang Zemin" it must safeguard the human rights and dignity to which its residents are entitled. Immigration Department spokesman Sunny Ho Yiu-sun said the department would have to look into the case based on the information provided by Ms Lau before it could decide on a course of action.