AFP: Man vanishes before boarding flight

AFP March 11, 2010 10:42am

A NEW York-based musician is appealling for help to find her husband who vanished as he boarded a flight from China to the United States amid fears he was seized for his Falungong beliefs.

Mei Xuan, who fled to the United States from China in 2007, said she went on February 18 to Newark Liberty International Airport to welcome her husband Jiang Feng who was due on a flight from Shanghai.

But he never arrived and phone calls went unanswered. Mei said she confirmed that the 42-year-old Jiang had checked in to the Continental Airlines flight and concluded that he disappeared between security and the boarding gate.

“I’m very, very worried for him,” Mei told AFP on a recent visit to Washington, where she was seeking help from lawmakers.

“Because we both practice Falungong, we have experienced this before and know they can just take you away,” she said. “I thought we could finally be together. We want to have a baby.”

Mei plays the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument, in the Shen Yun ensemble, which incorporates Falungong themes. The troupe was recently in the spotlight when members said they were denied visas to perform in Hong Kong.

China outlawed Falungong — a spiritual movement loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies – in 1999 following a silent mass gathering in Beijing by its members. China denounces the group as an “evil cult”.

The New York-based Falun Dafa Information Centre, which supports Falungong’s rights, said it had information that Jiang was taken to his native Anhui province where agents are trying to force him to renounce his beliefs.

Mei, who uses an alias for security reasons, said she and her husband suffered abuse in lengthy previous spells in detention.

In one incident, Mei said plain-clothes police shoved her into a car as she waited on the street for a taxi. She said she was then handcuffed to a chair and deprived of sleep for two and a half months.

“The only reason was because I practice Falungong,” she said. “I didn’t want to give up my beliefs so they just tortured me physically and mentally.”

“My feet were so swollen I couldn’t put on any shoes.”

The Falun Dafa Information Centre appealed for international pressure to ensure Jiang’s “immediate release and safe passage to the United States”.

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