(Associated Press, March 8, 2000)
BEIJING (AP) - Chinese police have detained seven foreign followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement in the southern border city of Shenzhen, a human rights group reported Wednesday.
The seven women, including three Australians and four from Hong Kong, planned to go to Beijing to appeal for an end to the communist government's ban on Falun Gong when they were detained Saturday, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
The Hong Kong-based group identified two of the Australians as Zhang Cuiying and Tao Huolian, but did not have the name of the third. One of the Hong Kong residents, Wang Yaoqing, was detained along with her 7-year-old son, the
group said. It said the boy was later released.
Falun Gong followers have defied the government's ban, issued more than seven months ago, by repeatedly staging peaceful protests in Beijing. Police have been on alert to prevent renewed protests during the 11-day annual session of the national legislature, which opened Sunday.
Information Center founder Lu Siqing said four U.S. citizens detained by Beijing police on Saturday in a sweep of Falun Gong followers remained in custody. The U.S. Embassy confirmed that two were U.S. citizens and was checking on the other two.
(Agence France Presse, March 8, 2000)
BEIJING, March 8 (AFP) - China is planning to try Hong Kong and Macau members of a banned spirtual movement, a rights group said Wednesday as authorities kept up a crackdown to prevent protests marring the annual parliamentary session.
"Authorities have detained seven Falungong members, four from Hong Kong and three from Macau, in a sign of harsher treatment for non-mainland members," said Frank Lu, the head of the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement.
Before people from Hong Kong and Macau used to be released "soon after being picked up," he said.
An officer at the Hongling police station in Shenzhen said Falungong members were detained on Saturday, but he could not confirm that police had carried out formal detention proceedings.
Lu's centre reported that police detained the women, and the seven-year-old son of one of the women who was released later, soon after their arrival Saturday in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
Police picked up the women to prevent them from presenting a protest letter to delegates attending the annual National People's Congress (NPC) session in Beijing, the report said.
A heavy police presence was seen Wednesday around the Great Hall of the People where delegates gathered for the fourth day of the 11-day NPC, which has been targetted by Falungong members to protest the group's banning in July as an "evil cult."
US embassy officials Wednesday said privacy laws prevented them from commenting on reports by Lu's centre on Monday that four US passport holders and four US residents carrying Chinese passports were among those detained.
A Hong Kong Falungong practitioner told AFP her 61-year-old mother was among 17 detained for 24 hours from Sunday near her home in Beijing's western Haidian district.
"They were forced to write statements promising not to practise or to go to Tiananmen Square during the NPC," she said, on condition of annonymity.
"It is ironic that the NPC is supposed to represent people from many districts and represent a wide variety of ideas, but we are not allowed to say anything," the Hong Kong practitioner said.
One of the practitioners who came to Beijing to protest said from her home in Daqing on Tuesday that soon after returning home on Sunday her work unit told her she would be detained for two months.
The 33-year-old local government worker said she was among 40 people from Daqing who were interrogated by police after their recent return from Beijing, some having been sent back by police.
Police have detained thousands of Falungong members, while scores of alleged "core leaders" of the group have been tried and sentenced to up to 18 years imprisonment.
(Agence France Presse, March 5, 2000)
BEIJING, March 5 (AFP) - Premier Zhu Rongji in his annual work report to China's legislature Sunday praised the crackdown of the outlawed Falungong spiritual group, and called for further "persecution" of such organizations.
"Evil cults must be banned and persecuted in accordance with the law," Zhu said in his report to the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People.
The government "took decisive measures against the Falungong cult," he said.
As Zhu was speaking, AFP journalists saw police round up a stream of Falungong followers who had protested underneath the portrait of Mao Zedong at the top of Tiananmen Square, within sight of the Great Hall.
Zhu also said China last year "resolutely opposed the barbaric US-led NATO bombing" of China's embassy in Yugoslavia, and had "dealt a powerful blow" to pro-independence moves in Taiwan led by President Lee Teng-hui.
"The great victories achieved in these struggles are of far-reaching political significance and have created a positive social climate for our economic development," he said.
The government banned the Falungong spiritual group last July after some 10,000 followers gathered around Communist Party headquarters in central Beijing in April and demanded the right to meet and practice their group meditation and spiritual exercises.
Following the protests, the government deemed the group the biggest threat to political stability since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests and have proceeded to round up tens of thousands of followers while sentencing group leaders to up to 18 years in prison.
A Hong Kong-based rights group said Saturday that 600 members of the Zhonggong spiritual exercise group had been rounded up by police since October.
Police have also issued a warning to Zhang Hongbao, the founder of the Zhonggong group which, like Falungong, is based on a belief in traditional Chinese qigong breathing exercises, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement said.
Zhu vowed to protect religious freedoms, but called on the government to "guide" religious groups toward adapting to Communist Party diktat.
"The government policy on freedom of religious belief should be thoroughly and correctly enforced, the administration of religious affairs should be strengthened in acordance with the law and vigorous efforts should be made to guide the various religions in adapting to socialist society," he said.
by Jessie Mangaliman ("San Jose Mercury News", March 8, 2000)
Eight Bay Area residents who practice Falun Gong remained under arrest in Beijing on Tuesday, days after they were rounded up in China's latest crackdown on the controversial spiritual movement.
Another unidentified member of the Bay Area group who lives in the San Jose area apparently avoided arrest because he left before Chinese authorities raided the apartment where the group had been staying, local Falun Gong practitioners said.
At least two of the residents arrested are American citizens, and U.S. officials are inquiring with Beijing authorities to determine whether two more of the detained are also Americans, according to officials of the U.S.
While the State Department did not identify the Americans arrested, friends and family members identified them as Qian Zhizhen and her son, David Sun, 12, of Fremont; Loretta Sukmei Lam of San Leandro; and Jein Shyue of San Jose.
``They think it's the right thing to go to China and talk to officials about the crackdown and tell them that it's wrong,'' said Alan Zeng, a San Jose software engineer, whose brother, Johnson Zeng, was among four others arrested.
Johnson Zeng, his wife, Yili Wang, Fan Wenquing and Guo Wei, all San Francisco software engineers, were also detained. They are Bay Area residents who hold work visas.
Zeng said he spoke with his brother about a week ago and knew that some members of the group were in China to ``try to appeal to People's Assembly'' about its ban on Falun Gong. Most of them knew of the risk for arrest, Zeng said.
The group went to Beijing a week ago to try to engage the government of China in a dialogue about the practice of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that involves yoga-like exercises. Hundreds of Bay Area residents subscribe to the practice, which is said to have a following of millions of people around the world. Their arrival in Beijing was timed to coincide with the national legislature's annual session.
The Chinese government considers Falun Gong a cult and has banned its practice. While members claim they have no leader, Beijing officials say they are led by Li Hongzhi, a former martial arts instructor whom they have described as ``an evil figure,'' capable of disrupting social stability.
On the night of March 4, between 9 and 10 p.m., police raided the apartment rented by the Bay Area group in the Yang Qiao Bei Li residential district of Beijing. Fifteen Falun Gong practitioners were arrested, eight from the Bay Area.
But one of the group members, who was not in the apartment at the time of the raid, said he returned to find that the apartment had been ransacked, said Sunnyvale's Alan Huang, a local Falun Gong practitioner and a friend of the group arrested in Beijing.
The man is now trying to leave Beijing, and Huang refused to identify him.
``That's how we found out. He took a lot of risk to call out,'' said Huang, who was arrested with three others in a similar crackdown last year.
Local members of Falun Gong said they had heard unconfirmed reports that Qian Zhizhen and her son were going to be released. State Department officials could not confirm the reports.
``I think it's terrible. They're nice people, and they weren't really doing anything,'' said Lisa Wendl, a San Jose mortgage broker who has been practicing Falun Gong for a year and a half. ``The Chinese government says you can't practice this, and it's supposed to disappear? It doesn't work that way. People have freedom to practice this belief.''
Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who helped win freedom for Huang and two other Californians in December, called the arrests ``the most recent preposterous outrage by this ruthless, totalitarian regime.''
Lantos told the Associated Press that he has called the Secretary of State's Office, the U.S. ambassador in China and the Chinese Embassy to try to gain the release of the captives.
Relatives and friends of those arrested said they are worried how the detainees are being treated in China.
``We've heard a lot of reports about the persecution of practitioners in China, a lot of human rights violations. Yes, I'm very concerned. I hope they're released as soon as possible,'' said Allen Zeng.
Huang remembers being detained for 13 days in Guangdong Province last year for practicing Falun Gong. He said he was kept in a detention center, in a cell with a dozen other people. The toilet was a hole in the ground, and there was a sink. Two people shared a bed cover, Huang said.
``We're working very hard to get them out of there. We don't know their whereabouts or their conditions,'' Huang said.
Zeng sent a one-page letter Tuesday to Lantos and other members of Congress to appeal for help in seeking the release of his brother and other practitioners of Falun Gong.
``We appeal to you to urge the Chinese government to release these innocent practitioners as soon as possible,'' Zeng wrote.
A spokesman for the People's Republic of China consulate in San Francisco did not return a phone message.
(Reuters, March 8, 2000)
TOKYO, March 8 (Reuters) - The Tokyo metropolitan government refused on Wednesday to grant special tax status to the Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned by China's ruling Communist Party rulers who fear it poses a threat to their rule.
Beijing had asked Tokyo not to grant the group the special status, saying such a decision would sour relations between the capitals of Asia's most powerful nations.
The Falun Gong, a mix of Buddhism and Taoism designed to harness energy in the body, had applied to the Tokyo government for recognition as a ``non-profit organisation'' (NPO), which would have allowed it to be treated as a corporation rather than as a religious group. It has some 400 adherents in Japan.
A Tokyo government official said the application was rejected because of discrepancies in forms filed by the group.
``There was also some doubt about its assertions concerning its religious activities,'' she added.
Falun Gong supporter Masaaki Tsuruzono, one of five members of the Falun Dafa association in Japan who filed the application last November, said he was surprised and disappointed.
``I do not understand the reasons given by the Tokyo government and believe there was outside pressure,'' he added. ``There was nothing wrong in the forms we filed.
``If this decision was in fact made in response to Chinese pressure, this is quite a problem.''
Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a nationalist who is adamant in his disapproval of the Chinese government, originally brushed aside China's request as interference in the city's internal affairs, and many observers had expected him to support the group's application.
Ishihara has rarely shied away from challenging Beijing, and has angered it in the past by doubting its accounts of Japanese wartime atrocities.
He has said he wants to invite outgoing Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to Tokyo after Lee leaves office this year, a move also likely to infuriate China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province.
Beijing banned the Falun Gong last year, saying the sect brainwashed its followers, and had caused 1,400 deaths by instructing them to use Falun Gong practices rather than medicine to cure illnesses, or by driving them to suicide.
Japan has begun cracking down on cults recently amid fears the number of fringe religious groups is rising.
Aum Shinri Kyo, the doomsday religious cult accused of the fatal 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways, was placed under government surveillance in February and has since had its facilities raided by police on numerous occasions.
The 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway killed 12 and injured thousands. Aum guru Shoko Asahara preached that the world was ending and the group had to arm itself to prepare for various calamities.
(Kyodo News Service, March 8, 2000)
TOKYO, March 8 (Kyodo) - The Tokyo metropolitan government rejected Wednesday an application to grant nonprofit organization (NPO) status to the Japanese branch of China's outlawed spiritual movement Falun Gong, metropolitan government officials said.
''There is doubt over its assertion that it does not chiefly aim at religious activities,'' an official said.
China, which has intensified a crackdown on Falun Gong, conveyed its anxiety to the Japanese national government after the branch, named Japan Falun Dafa and based in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, applied in November to the metropolitan government for the status.
''We had not even imagined that our application would be turned down. We must consider filing an appeal or lawsuit,'' said Masaaki Tsuruzono, a Japanese representative of Falun Gong practitioners in Japan.
Only several applications for NPO status have been rejected in Japan since a law authorizing prefectural governments to give groups such a status came into force in December 1998.
''It is hard to conclude definitely that it is a religion. It seems to depend fully on its founder's thoughts, while its doctrines include something supernatural -- such as healing diseases with 'qigong' breathing techniques,'' the metropolitan official said.
The group's application to the metropolitan government says it aims to publicize the Falun Gong practice through volunteer activities and that it will not engage in any religious or political activities.
The metropolitan government rejected the application not only because of doubt about the group's religiousness, but also because it says it will allow only those who recognize and love the Falun Gong practice to enter the group, the officials said.
Another reason for the rejection is that since the group's balance sheet shows no income or expenditure, it is thought to be unable to engage in any activities, they said.
Under the 1998 law, a group cannot obtain NPO status if it chiefly aims at religious or political activities -- or if it puts unfair conditions on participation in the group.
If NPO status is given, a group can register as a legal body, making it easier to rent an office or open bank accounts.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions. More than 10,000 practitioners peacefully surrounded Beijing's Zhongnanhai leaders' compound last April to demand official recognition of the group.
China's authorities banned Falun Gong last July, branding it an ''evil sect.''
(Associated Press, March 7, 2000)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Eight San Francisco Bay area Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in Beijing, and a family member has asked U.S. officials to pressure the Chinese government for their release.
The American citizens arrested Saturday include Zhizhen "Mary" Qian and her son David Sun, 11, both of Fremont; Loretta Sukmei Lam of San Leandro; and Jein Shyue of San Jose. Four Bay Area residents who are not citizens, but hold working visas, include test engineer Wenqing "Wendy" Fang, 30, and San Jose residents Wei "Sam" Guo, 26, Sheng "Johnson" Zeng, 30, and his wife, Yili "Vennessa" Wang, 28.
Trying to quash protests during the national legislature's annual session, Beijing police raided an apartment Saturday night and arrested 15 Falun Gong practitioners, including the Bay Area residents.
Allen Zeng, 31, of San Jose, whose brother was arrested, told the San Francisco Examiner for a story Monday that he was pressuring the U.S. State Department to lobby for the detainees' release.
The latest arrests follow months of government reprisals that include the mass detention of thousands of peaceful demonstrators and prison terms for four alleged ringleaders in December and a nonstop smear campaign against the movement founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former grain bureau clerk.
The regime fears the grassroots power of Falun Gong, viewing the movement as a threat to public order and social stability.
The practice is an offshoot of traditional meditation and health practices.Followers say it promotes health and morality and can bestow supernatural powers.
It has an estimated 60 million to 70 million followers worldwide, with about 400 to 600 in the Bay Area.
U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who helped win freedom for three Californians arrested in China last December, called the arrests "the most recent preposterous outrage by this ruthless, totalitarian regime."
He said he has called the Secretary of State's office, the U.S. ambassador in China and the Chinese Embassy to try to gain the release of the captives.
Officials at the State Department said they were looking into reports of the arrests.
Xiaozhong Yang, consul and spokesman at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, said he had no details, though he provided a defense of his nation's ban on Falun Gong.
("Yomiuri Shimbun", March 7, 2000)
The Tokyo metropolitan government has a hot potato in its hands as it has to decide by Thursday whether to approve the application for "nonprofit organization" status of the Tokyo-based branch of the meditation group Falun Gong, which is outlawed in China.
The Chinese government has asked the metropolitan government not to give NPO status to the group in Japan, but Gov. Shintaro Ishihara considers such a request as external interference in Tokyo's affairs.
As Tokyo has a friendly affiliation with Beijing, the metropolitan government finds itself in a difficult position.
The metropolitan government's Citizens and Cultural Affairs Bureau said the application for NPO status would be decided based on NPO requirements. Nonetheless, it is something of a no-win situation for Tokyo.
The Falun Gong group uses meditation to pursue a spiritual life. Branded as a cult in China, it was banned when its rapidly increasing membership was considered a threat to the Communist Party in China.
The Falun Dafa association, organized by five members in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, applied for NPO status last Nov. 9.
According to the application, Falun Gong's teachings aim to raise people's moral sense and improve their health, which would bring about beneficial effects on society as a whole.
The application also said that the group planned to promote Falun Gong and exchanges between people, with no intention of carrying out political or religious activities.
After the submission of the application, the group underwent a series of inspections in line with procedures stipulated by the NPO law. A decision must be handed down by Thursday, four months after the application was submitted.
The metropolitan government said that there are no legal grounds to turn down the application because the group said that it is not a political or religious group. Gov. Ishihara, however, has the final say on the matter.
If approved, the group will be able to have its real estate registered as that of a corporation and open bank accounts as a corporate entity.
After the application was submitted, an official from the Chinese Embassy in Japan visited the metropolitan government twice, asking that the application be turned down because the group is outlawed in China.
At a press conference on Feb. 25, Gov. Ishihara criticized what he called the Chinese Embassy's high-handed attitude, saying that approval of the application would cause Tokyo-Beijing relations to deteriorate.
("South China Morning Post", March 7, 2000)
Hundreds of undercover and uniformed police clamped a ring of steel around Tiananmen Square yesterday to stamp out any protests by the banned Falun Gong movement after a number of the sect's members were arrested over the weekend. As the NPC started a second day of meetings in the Great Hall of the People on the west side of the square, police roamed the huge esplanade interrogating people.
They seemed especially to be targeting middle-aged women, witnesses said, and questioning them about what they were doing in the square.
Two people, a man and a woman, were seen being led away to waiting police vehicles after officers approached them.
Falun Gong members from the US trying to protest to the NPC against the ban on the spiritual movement had been arrested, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
Officials detained 16 sect members, including four US citizens and four people with a permanent US residency permit, among them a 12-year-old boy, the centre said.
The group had arrived in Beijing at the beginning of March from San Francisco planning to hand over an appeal, but police detained them on Saturday - one day before the opening of the NPC - together with mainland Falun Gong members in an apartment in a southern district of Beijing. Their fate was uncertain, the centre said.
The opening of the NPC on Sunday had been accompanied by protests and arrests of dozens of sect members in Tiananmen Square.
Authorities have jailed thousands of Falun Gong followers since Beijing banned the movement as an "evil cult" last July.
(Associated Press, March 6, 2000)
SINGAPORE (AP)--The Singapore government said Monday it won't ban the Falun Gong spiritual group simply because it has been labeled as a "cult" elsewhere..
Falun Gong was recently outlawed as an "evil cult" in China. The group is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore, whose permanent population of 3.2 million is about 77% ethnic Chinese.
"The Falun Gong group is registered in Singapore as the Falun Buddha Society. As long as they do not breach the law, or do anything that is against law and order, their activities will continue in Singapore," said Ho Peng Kee, minister of state for home affairs.
"We do not act against legally registered groups merely because they have been labeled as 'cults,"' Ho said in Parliament, responding to legislators' questions..
Group members say there are more than 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners in Singapore..
The city-state is known for its strict controls on assembly. A Singapore congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses Christian group, which opposes the country's mandatory military service, has been outlawed for decades.
China last year banned Falun Gong as a menace to public order and Communist Party rule, and launched a massive crackdown on practitioners. Members had earlier gathered in peaceful protests against signs of government disfavor.
According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, hundreds of Falun Gong followers in China have been put on trial and 5,000 more sent to labor camps without trial.
Practitioners say Falun Gong teaches meditation, exercises and ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism that promote health and morality.
In seven years, the group has attracted millions of followers in China and abroad.
(Kyodo News Service, March 6, 2000)
BEIJING, March 6 (Kyodo) - Four U.S. citizens, including a 12-year-old boy, have been detained by Beijing police since Saturday, a Hong Kong human rights group reported Monday.
The four are reportedly part of a group of 16 Falun Gong practitioners arrested Saturday at their residence to prevent them from presenting a petition to Chinese lawmakers.
Their status is unknown, even though Chinese authorities are required to inform the U.S. Embassy within 48 hours of arresting an American citizen, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
The center said eight of those arrested came from San Francisco, where the adults worked as engineers. The four who are not American citizens are all U.S. residents.
Bill Palmer, U.S. Embassy press secretary in Beijing, was not aware of the situation as of late Monday evening.
Regarding the requirement that the embassy be notified within 48 hours of an arrest, he said that if the arrested Americans did not inform the police of their nationality, it would be a ''mitigating factor.''
On Saturday, dozens of Falun Gong practitioners were arrested on the fringes of Beijing's Tiananmen Square as they tried to unfurl banners and perform meditation exercises.
The Sunday opening of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), has drawn attention to the square, considered the symbolic heart of China. The square, festooned with hundreds of red flags, is bordered on the west by the Great Hall of the People, where the NPC convenes every March.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions. More than 10,000 practitioners peacefully surrounded Beijing's Zhongnanhai leaders' compound last April to demand official recognition of the group.
China's authorities banned the practice of Falung Gong last July, branding it an ''evil sect.''
(Reuters, March 6, 2000)
HONG KONG, March 6 (Reuters) - Police in Beijing detained four American Chinese to prevent them from petitioning members of China's parliament on behalf of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a Hong Kong rights groups said on Monday.
Police in the capital took three American-Chinese Falun Gong followers and an American-Chinese child from a residence on March 4, the day before parliament opened its annual session, the Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China said in a statement.
The information centre identified the four as Loretta Sukmei Lam, Jein Shyue, Qian Zhizhen and her 12-year-old son David Sun. Shyue was originally from Taiwan but the origins of the other three were not clear.
Four mainland Chinese Falun Gong adherents with U.S. residency rights -- Fan Wenqing, Zeng Sheng, Wang Yili and Quo Wei -- and eight mainland Falun Gong adherents were taken away in the same round-up, the group said.
All of the detained adults were engineers who had flown to Beijing from San Franscisco to try to petition members of the National People's Congress during its 11-day session, the Hong Kong group said.
It said it had not heard anything else about the detainees as of late Monday.
(Associated Press, March 6, 2000)
BEIJING (AP) Chinese police have detained four U.S. citizens and 12 other people during a roundup of members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a rights group reported Monday.
Police detained the 16 Saturday in a sweep of a Beijing residence, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported. The sweep came on the eve of the national legislature's annual session.
Eight of those detained came from the San Francisco Bay area, the center said. It identified the four U.S. citizens as Loretta Sukmei Lam, Jein Shyue, Qian Zhizhen and her 12-year-old son, David Sun. It said four others were Chinese citizens who held residency rights in the United States.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman did not know about the detentions and could not confirm whether Chinese authorities had contacted U.S. diplomats. Under a consular agreement, Chinese authorities are supposed to notify the U.S. government within 48 hours of detaining an American citizen.
Increasingly, followers of Falun Gong outside of China are coming to Beijing to help Chinese protest the communist government's ban on the group.
Falun Gong is an offshoot of traditional meditation and health practices. Followers say practice promotes health and morality and can bestow supernatural powers.
China outlawed Falun Gong last July as a menace to the public and Communist Party rule, claiming the sect deceived people and caused 1,400 deaths. Since the ban, followers have repeatedly converged on Beijing to stage small, peaceful protests.
Police have been stationed at train and bus stations and searched Beijing's neighborhoods in the past week to find sect followers and prevent protests during the 11-day session of the National People's Congress.
(Kyodo News Service, March 5, 2000)
BEIJING, March 5 (Kyodo) - Chinese authorities detained dozens of followers of the banned Falun Gong group in Beijing's Tiananmen Square early Sunday as Premier Zhu Rongji delivered his ''Government Work Report'' at the opening of the annual session of parliament.
Some of the followers were detained as they tried to spread a banner, witnesses said.
Zhu's speech at the National People's Congress included pointed references to the group, which Beijing labels an ''evil sect.''
In the speech, China's equivalent of the U.S. president's annual State of the Union address, Zhu praised his government's efforts in stamping out the group, citing the ''decisive measures'' taken against Falun Gong as one of the key achievements leading to ''a positive social climate for our economic development.''
Zhu told the 2,900-member assembly that ''evil cults must be banned and attacked in accordance with the law.'' But the official English-language version of his speech contained a glaring and ironic translation error. ''Attack'' was translated as ''persecute,'' despite the fact that in Chinese the two words are clearly differentiated and have very different meanings.
The English-language version thus lent a sense of martyrdom to a group that the state brands an ''evil cult.''
Hundreds of Falun Gong supporters have been detained in the square -- the symbolic heart of China -- since the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 5.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions preaching the attainment of health and morality through special exercises.
More than 10,000 practitioners peacefully surrounded the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in central Beijing last April to demand official recognition for the group.
A large-scale crackdown on the group began in early July and has continued into this year.
by John Leicester (The Associated Press, March 5, 2000)
BEIJING (AP) - As China's national legislature opened its annual session on one side of Tiananmen Square, followers of the banned Falun Gong sect unfurled protest banners at the edge of the vast plaza Sunday only to be swiftly arrested.
Having sealed off the square, police took away at least 39 Falun Gong followers or suspected group members along the plaza's fringe during the morning session of the National People's Congress.
In recent months, China has cracked down on Falun Gong, a sect that has drawn millions of Chinese with its combination of slow-motion exercises and syncretic blend of Taoist and Buddhist cosmology and ideas drawn from founder Li Hongzhi, an ex-government clerk who now lives in New York. Adherents say Falun Gong promotes health and morality and is not political.
At least three of those detained Sunday unfurled banners, some proclaiming ``The Great Law of Falun,'' as they stood under the towering portrait of Mao Tse-tung which hangs on the Gate of Heavenly Peace at the square's north end. Among those taken away were a man and a young child.
The numbers arrested were far higher than during the congress' opening in previous years. But this session is China's most public political event since communist leaders banned Falun Gong as a social menace and threat to Communist Party rule more than seven months ago. They have ordered tightened security to prevent disruptive protests by the group during the congress.
Opening the session in the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square, Premier Zhu Rongji said the communist government ``took decisive measures against the Falun Gong cult'' over the past year.
Police stopped many people along the square, a popular tourist site, to check bags and ask where they were from. In one case, an officer told a woman to say ``Falun Gong is an evil cult.'' When she did, he let her go on her way.
In recent days, police detained 68 Falun Gong followers in Beijing's Fangshan district and were holding them at the Huangshandian Drug Rehabilitation Center, a Falun Gong member said Sunday. The followers were on a hunger strike, some in their third day, he said.
A Hong Kong-based rights group, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, appealed to the legislature Sunday to investigate the death of Falun Gong member Chen Zixiu and punish those responsible. The center made the appeal in a statement faxed to foreign news organizations.
Chen, 60, died last month in eastern Weifang city after police stopped him from boarding a train to Beijing. The Information Center and Falun Gong members said she died from a police beating but the government disputed the account, saying Chen was not mistreated and that she died from a heart attack.
The Information Center said Chen's daughter and Ying Xia, a former medical school student and Falun Gong activist who was detained with Chen, believe the woman died from cold, lack of food and severe beatings.
Ying heard Chen being beaten and tortured with electric shock over two days and tried to care for her as she was dying, the group said in a statement.
(Reuters, March 5, 2000)
BEIJING, March 5 (Reuters) - Police near Tiananmen Square detained at least two dozen suspected followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement on Sunday as China opened its annual session of parliament.
Countless uniformed and plainclothes officers patrolled the area below the portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong across the square from the Great Hall of the People, where the National People's Congress was opening its 11-day session.
Some of the detainees had unfurled banners before they were surrounded by police and hustled quickly aboard small buses.
Two buses, each loaded with about 15 detainees, drove off within half an hour of the start of Premier Zhu Rongji's keynote speech to the opening session the NPC.
The buses were quickly replaced with empty ones.
All but the area of the square around Mao's portrait, which stares across the vast square from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, was closed to the public. The rest was used as a parking lot for the nearly 3,000 delegates of the Congress.
Paramilitary police blocked off all tunnels and sidewalks leading to the square, the political heart of China, and laid out spikes in the roads to keep traffic well away from the Great Hall once Zhu's speech began.
The usual packs of Chinese and foreign tourists posed for photographs in front of Mao's portrait on the massive red Gate of Heavenly Peace, the main entrance to the Forbidden City.
Few seemed aware of the detentions going on around them.
The orderly arrests contrasted with scenes a month ago when police beat and kicked scores of Falun Gong protesters who unfurled banners and began meditating in the square on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Tiananmen Square has been the focus of repeated agitation by Falun Gong adherents since China's Communist rulers banned the popular sect last July, fearing a threat to its rule.
Prior to the ban, members had carried out bold protests to demand official recognition of their faith, which combines mysticism and meditation exercises drawn loosely from Buddhist and Taoist doctrine.
In his speech, Zhu hailed the ``decisive measures'' taken last year against the sect, which had gained a following of millions since it was founded in the early 1990s by a Chinese former granary clerk.
Beijing says the sect brainwashes and bilks its followers, and has caused 1,400 deaths by instructing them to use Falun Gong practices rather than medicine to cure illnesses, or by driving them to suicide.
``Evil cults must be banned and attacked in accordance with the law,'' Zhu said in his speech.
(Agence France Presse, March 4, 2000)
Chanting members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement were wrestled to the ground by scores of police after unfurling banners in a series of protests in Tiananmen Square yesterday.
Witnesses said they saw police quash five Falun Gong protests in 90 minutes, as delegates poured into Beijing ahead of tomorrow's opening of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress.
One source said two middle-aged women unfurled a banner in the centre of the square at 10am and chanted "Falun Dafa, Falun Dafa" (the great wheel of law).
One of the women took up a meditation position with her arms above her head, a traditional Falun Gong protest, before they were swamped by uniformed and plainclothed police.
"The woman with the banner was pushed to the ground and there was just a huge melee as they were covered by police," a witness said.
Another witness said the woman carrying the banner was punched by a policeman.
Several minutes later two men started shouting at the police and they too were tackled and dragged away to police vans.
Thousands of Falun Gong members have carried out protests at Tiananmen Square since the group was banned last July. The movement carried out a mass protest on Lunar New Year's eve on February 4 in the square, and human rights groups said up to 2,000 practitioners were detained across the country in the following days.
Fearful of another wave of mass protests to coincide with the NPC, the authorities have tightened security around central Beijing.
By early afternoon the central esplanade of the square had been sealed off, police vans patrolled the edges and uniformed police officers were stationed at regular intervals facing the square.
A Falun Gong spokeswoman in Hong Kong said members were converging on Beijing for the 10-day NPC meeting to protest against the banning of the movement.
"Many practitioners from all over China will try to be there to appeal during the NPC period, as well as many practitioners from overseas," she said.
(Reuters, March 4, 2000)
HONG KONG, March 4 (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have detained at least 600 followers of the Zhong Gong meditation group after it was declared a cult, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Saturday.
Authorities began targetting the group, which is similar to China's banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, last October and have closed down 100 of its offices, said the Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China.
``Since October, at least 600 Zhong Gong followers have been detained,'' it said in a statement.
Zhong Gong, which claims more than 10 million followers in China, practises ``Qigong,'' a traditional Chinese system of deep breathing exercises or meditation.
On Friday, police in Heilongjiang province informed the family of Cheng Yaqin, a senior Zhong Gong member who was detained on October 12, that Cheng had been ``formally arrested.''
No charges have yet been laid against Cheng, the centre said.
Beijing's move against Zhong Gong comes amid a campaign to crush Falun Gong,which was outlawed last July and branded an ``evil cult.''
The crackdown on Falun Gong, which has seen at least four followers die in police custody and many more sent to psychiatric wards, has drawn criticism from international human rights groups and governments.
("South China Morning Post", March 3, 2000)
Police flattened a wave of protests by the banned Falun Gong movement in Tiananmen Square yesterday even as Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was calling for a crackdown on the ``evil cult'' in his policy address to the National People's Congress.
In at least 10 separate incidents during the morning, knots of Falun Gong practitioners tried repeatedly to raise red and yellow banners bearing the sect's name and the Buddhist swastika symbol.
The protests were quickly snuffed out by scores of uniformed and plainclothes police patrolling in front of the Forbidden City, the only part of the vast square not sealed off for the parliamentary meeting.
One reporter said he saw at least 10 separate protests in four hours, when police detained 17 people. Other witnesses said police took away about 40 Falun Gong followers. A photo-journalist was also said to have been seized.
At least three of those detained unfurled banners, some proclaiming ``The Great Law of Falun'', as they stood under the portrait of Mao Zedong above the Gate of Heavenly Peace at the square's north end. Among those taken away were a man and a young child.
In other incidents, a police officer punched a female Falun Gong practitioner in an effort to force her to drop a banner, and six policeman were seen knocking a man to the ground.
The National People's Congress was the most public political event since communist leaders banned the Falun Gong as a social menace and threat to Communist Party rule more than seven months ago.
In his speech, Mr Zhu pledged to keep up the pressure on cults and to continue the ``Strike Hard'' campaign against crime.
Hailing the crackdown on the Falun Gong as a major victory in a serious political struggle last year, the prime minister said that ``evil cults must be banned and prosecuted in accordance with the law'' for the sake of social stability and state security.
According to a Falun Gong member yesterday, police had detained 68 Falun Gong followers in Beijing's Fangshan district in recent days and were holding them at the Huangshandian drug rehabilitation centre. All 68 were said to be on a hunger strike _ some in their third day.
The Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China yesterday appealed to the legislature to investigate the death of Falun Gong member Chen Zixiu and punish those responsible.
Chen, 60, died last month in Weifang City after being stopped by police from boarding a train to Beijing. The centre and Falun Gong members said she died from a police beating, but authorities said her death was due to a heart attack.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]