Freed student has not applied for Dublin yet

Thu, Mar 14, 2002, 00:00

The Chinese student released after two years' detention for membership of the Falun Gong spiritual movement has not yet applied for a visa to return to Ireland.

Mr Zhao Ming was said to be "very weak" when he left the Tuan He Farm Labour Camp in Daxing County north of Beijing on Tuesday morning.

Trinity College Dublin has issued a letter saying Mr Zhao is still registered as a postgraduate student in the computer science department. It is understood the Government is prepared to look favourably on a visa application if one is received.

He may still be with his parents and brother in Beijing, where the Foreign Ministry has said it will put no obstacles in his way to apply to leave the country. It is unclear, however, if the authorities have issued him with his passport taken from him in January 2000 when he returned to Beijing during the Christmas holidays.

Mr Zhao was placed under house arrest, which he broke to attend a rally in Tiananmen Square. He was rearrested and sent to the labour camp to be "re-educated". He was reportedly tortured.

Mr Zhao's release came after a high-profile campaign in Ireland by the Falun Gong movement and Trinity College students. His detention was raised by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, with the Chinese Premier, Mr Zhu Rongji, during his visit to Ireland last September.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, was given assurances about his release during a visit to Beijing last month.

Falun Gong was outlawed in July 1999 after 10,000 members marched on the Chinese leaders compound, Zhongnanhai, demanding official recognition. The Chinese government says Falun Gong is an "evil cult" and has been waging a propaganda war on the movement.