China: After 18 Months of Illegal Detention, Yoko Kaneko is Released on November 23

Yoko Kaneko, a resident of Niigata, Sado Island, Japan, who was illegally sentenced to one-year-and-a-half of forced labour education for distributing Falun Gong flyers, was released on the morning of November 23 in Beijing.

On May 24 last year, Yoko Kaneko was arrested in Beijing while distributing Falun Gong flyers and sentenced to one and a half years in a forced labour camp. During her detention, her husband, relatives and Falun Gong practitioners joined efforts in getting her out. A rescue committee was established in Tokyo, and a support group was founded in Osaka. Practitioners collected signatures in various places in Japan, as well as on the Internet. They also held press conferences, raising awareness of Yoko Kaneko's plight. Moreover, practitioners also held a SOS Walk to Rescue Yoko Kaneko several times in her residence county, Niigata, to collect signatures.

On July 29 last year, a coalition was formed by 21 members of Congress from the four major parties in Japan to rescue Yoko. With their help, practitioners collected over 130,000 signatures by November this year. In addition, 270 members of congress have written support letters.

At the same time, various governments, human rights organisations, and individuals have called upon the Japanese government to lend support in helping free Yoko Kaneko. Some of them directly called upon the Chinese government to immediately release all detained Falun Gong practitioners.

The Japanese government has expressed its wish to help rescue Yoko Kaneko on many different occasions. On November 18 this year, shortly before Yoko's labour education term expired, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, clearly stated that the Japanese government would treat Yoko Kaneko the same as Japanese citizens.

According to a news report on November 18, 2003, from a Japanese TV station, Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi said, "Since Yoko Kaneko married a Japanese citizen and lived in Japan, we treat her as a Japanese citizen."

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