URGENT ACTION: 73-Year-Old U.N. Refugee Seized in Russia, Believed at Imminent Risk of Repatriation to China

NEW YORK, NY — An ethnic Chinese adherent of the Falun Gong, Mr. Gao Chunman, has been seized by Russian authorities and is believed to be at imminent risk of deportation to China, the Falun Dafa Information Center has learned. Gao, age 73, was taken from his St. Petersburg home on Sunday by Russian immigration officers, who entered his home on false pretences and cut telephone lines.

It is believed Russian authorities were acting at the behest of China’s communist regime, raising fears for Gao’s safety and welfare; if returned to China, Gao will likely face imprisonment and possible torture.

Gao’s seizure is believed to be in contravention to international law. Gao has been recognized as a legitimate refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Russia since 2003, the year in which he applied for refugee status. Should Russia forcibly remove Gao to China, the act would be in violation of the non-refoulement prohibitions of the Convention Against Torture as well as Article 33 of the International Convention on Refugees, both of which Russia has ratified and is obligated to follow by international law.

Gao’s wife, Mira Gao (a Russian citizen), reports that personnel of the Federal Immigration Service of Russia gained entrance to the couple’s home on false pretence, posing as potential renters who wished to view their apartment. They arrived at approximately 11:30 A.M. local time. Officers did not present any documentation or rulings on Gao, and would not state grounds for his abduction. According to Gao’s wife, officers furthermore cut the couple’s phone lines so as to prevent any possible calls to police or others.

Gao, who is partially crippled following a stroke two years earlier, was carried off by police against his will and the protests of his wife. Sources in Russia report that Red Cross staff and others thereafter began urgently working to locate Gao, following the abduction. Around 6:30 P.M. local time it was learned from Russian police that Gao had been taken to Moscow, and is to be put on the first possible flight to Beijing. Gao is thus believed to be at imminent risk. Immediate intervention is needed to secure Gao’s safety.

Those close to Gao believe he was targeted for having been designated a “key figure” in Russia by Chinese Communist Party authorities, likely on account of Gao’s having formerly been a professor at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University. Gao taught there in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Russian authorities have set poor precedent in recent months, bowing as recently as March to alleged pressure from Chinese delegates to act in similarly unlawful fashion. On March 27 Russian authorities broke international law in forcibly deporting to China Falun Gong adherents Ms. Ma Hui and her 8-year-old daughter, both of whom had U.N. refugee status. (news)

The Falun Dafa Information Center is calling upon all relevant international bodies for help in securing Gao’s immediate release from Russian authorities, and strongly condemns the apparent willfulness of Russian officials to appease Chinese communist rulers and facilitate their unlawful, sordid practices.