Imprisoned Falun Gong member returns to Japan

November 29, 2003
A resident of Japan who had been detained in China for her activities in the Falun Gong spiritual movement thanked those who supported her Friday. Yoko Kaneko, 39, expressed gratitude to the Japanese government and a group of lawmakers for their efforts in pressuring Beijing to release her.

Kaneko is married to a Japanese man and lives in Niigata Prefecture. She returned to Japan on Thursday after her 18-month detention period expired Sunday.

Kaneko was arrested May 24, 2002, for allegedly violating a Chinese law banning “evil cults” by distributing Falun Gong leaflets with friends in Beijing. Her Japanese friends were deported, but Kaneko, who is Chinese, was detained.

“I want to give thanks for the cooperation of the Japanese government, the Japanese embassy (in Beijing) and the politicians who supported the move,” Kaneko told a news conference through an interpreter.

Her husband, Atsushi, who was also present at the news conference, and his supporters had repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry to pressure China for her early release.

Kaneko said that Falun Gong followers detained in China suffer “psychological pressure” and “inhumane treatment.” She said they are tortured if they refuse to leave the organization.

A 19-year-old girl was stripped naked, tied to a board and drugged for refusing to leave Falun Gong, Kaneko said. The teen later became schizophrenic, according to Kaneko.

Japanese people “would not have understood the seriousness of (China’s) persecution of Falun Gong followers had it not been for” my detention, she said.

Kaneko said her black hair turned white during her detention. She dyed it brown before returning to Japan. She also said her family and friends in China were harassed because she was a member of Falun Gong.

Seishu Makino, a Democratic Party of Japan politician who heads the support group of lawmakers, said he will continue to support Falun Gong followers.

“The nature of the incident is that the lives of Falun Gong followers in Japan are threatened” if they return to China, he said.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International Japan has said Falun Gong followers are often subjected to torture and other harassment in China if they refuse to leave the organization.

The Japan Times: Nov. 29, 2003