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Falun Gong family refugee status appealed

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/07/2016

A family of Chinese Falun Gong members who got to stay in New Zealand by renouncing their residency in Singapore will now have to fight an appeal against their refugee status.

The family, which includes a mother and her children, were meant to be deported to Singapore after being turned down for New Zealand citizenship three times.

Although the refugee officer in charge of their case felt they may be in danger in China - where members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement are persecuted - they saw no risk in the family returning to Singapore.

But before an appeal of their case was heard last year, the family renounced their Singaporean residence, and the Immigration and Protection Tribunal ruled they could stay in New Zealand as refugees rather than be sent back to China.

Crown lawyers representing the refugee and protection officer this month asked the High Court at Auckland to consider an appeal of that decision, on the grounds the tribunal didn't take into account why the Singaporean residencies had been cancelled, saying it demonstrated a potential lack of good faith.

But the family's lawyer, Carol Curtis, said the residencies were cancelled to allow the family's United States-based father to get access to his retirement fund in Singapore and there was nothing cynical about it.

She said the tribunal knew that before it decided to let the family stay.

In his decision released on Tuesday, Justice Timothy Brewer said the argument was strong enough to merit an appeal.

"I accept the Crown's submission that the tribunal did not consider the issue of good faith," he said.

The case will be called again this month.

Falun Gong began teaching its beliefs publicly in 1992 and was initially supported by the Chinese government.

That changed in 1999, when it was declared to be "a heretical organisation" and an "evil cult" that threatened social stability.

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