Polish court considering sending cult follower to trial in China

The Polish Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider its decision to send a Swedish citizen coming from China to his country of origin to face financial crimes, effectively blocking his extradition.

The businessman Li Zhihui, since his arrest under an Interpol notification at Warsaw Chopin Airport almost two years ago, has been detained in Poland pending extradition to China.

The case attracted the attention of both human rights defenders and the Swedish government due to the fact that the man is a member of the Falun Gong cult that China has been trying to eliminate for over twenty years. International human rights organisations report that the cult’s members imprisoned in China often face abuse and torture.

Sweden's foreign minister said on Wednesday that the country's diplomats paid Li a visit to prison and expect Poland to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and other obligations. She added that "Sweden's concern about the human rights situation in China is well known to the Polish authorities."

Li, 53, comes from the Chinese province of Jiangsu, from which he left in 2012 to settle in Sweden. Chinese authorities have opened an investigation into him, accusing him of financial crimes.

The Polish appellate court decided last year to extradite the man, which was opposed by the Ombudsman, who asked the Supreme Court to order the case to be reconsidered, saying that the Polish Penal Code and the European Court of Human Rights would not allow extradition if it could result in inhuman treatment of the accused.

Peter Dahlin, co-founder of Safeguard Defenders, a human rights-related NGO, said that "Li's case will be watched by governments across Europe as well as in Beijing," adding that other ECHR-related countries such as the Czech Republic and Sweden have already refused to extradite to China, citing the country’s oppressive justice system and a conviction rate of over 99%.

"Activists, dissidents, and Falun Gong practitioners living in another country do not feel safe," said Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Teng Biao, now living in the US.