May 21, 2002

SALZBURG/CITY (Salzburg News-sab). He had distributed flyers in Beijing on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the founding of Falun Gong, to raise awareness of the persecution of Falun Gong: following that, 30-year-old Alexander Hamrle from Vienna was arrested in Beijing. Only after the Austrian legate in Beijing intervened for him was he set free.

Hellmut Lumpi, a 23-year-old law student from Salzburg/Stadt commented, "We were all very concerned about him." Mr. Lumpi accounts for the perhaps ten or so Falun Gong members in Austria and has had similar experiences with restrictions at the hands of Chinese government agencies. He would have loved to travel to China, but is not allowed. Twice already he has applied for a tourist visa; the first time through the Chinese embassy in a city in Switzerland and the second time through the travel agency "Geo." Both times he was rejected.

Geo sells more than 1,400 trips to China every year. Mr. Egger from the travel agency had this to say, "This must surely be a rarity. We have never encountered something like that." Even the Foreign Office in Vienna cannot recall a case such as this.

The Chinese consulate said that Mr. Lumpi's visa has been denied for "technical reasons." This means that Mr. Lumpi's name is on a computer list. But the consular officials refuse to say how his name got on the list.

In all probability it is because he, like Mr. Hamrle in China, distributed flyers in Salzburg containing Falun Gong information, muses Mr. Lumpi. "The flyers contained my name for those who wanted to learn about Falun Gong free of charge."

Falun Gong, freely translated, means "Turning the Law Wheel." According to self-defined explanations of its followers, it is a meditation practice for body, mind and spirit, combining Buddhist and Taoist teachings with qigong, a popular Chinese exercise. The Chinese government [...] banned it in 1999, and since then, followers have been hunted and arrested.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly raised awareness of the repression of this movement. The Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Voelker (Association for Threatened Peoples) is correct in its criticism of the denial of Mr. Hellmut Lumpi's visa to travel to China.