BEIJING, June 30 (Reuters) - The embattled Falun Gong spiritual movement will take to the air waves on Saturday with daily Chinese-language broadcasts designed to counter Beijing's harsh crackdown on the sect, the group said.
Almost a year after China banned Falun Gong and launched a crackdown on what it has labelled an ``evil cult,'' World Falun Dafa Radio will make its debut on 9.915 MHz and online at www.falundafaradio.org, it said in a statement.
Falun Dafa, which means the Great Law of the Dharma Wheel, is another name for the movement, which combines meditation with a doctrine rooted loosely in Buddhist and Daoist teachings.
The nightly one-hour broadcast at 10 p.m. Beijing time (1400 GMT) aims to counter ``defamation'' and ``persecution'' of the meditation movement by Communist authorities, it said. The statement did not say where the broadcast is coming from.
``To justify their brutal crackdown, the Chinese government launched an intensive defamation campaign against Falun Gong,'' the statement said.
``It fabricated horror stories and distorted facts to cover the truth,'' it said.
China banned Falun Gong in July last year and launched a fierce campaign against the group in the state media. It says Falun Gong is anti-science and cheats its followers, blaming it for 1,500 deaths by suicide or refusal to accept medical care.
Falun Gong denies this and says thousands of its adherents have been arrested and hundreds sent to labour camps.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said it had documented at least 22 deaths of Falun Gong adherents who have died in police custody as a result of torture, forced medication and other abuses.
Founded by Li Hongzhi, a Chinese former granary clerk who now is thought to live in exile in New York, the group initially shocked the atheist Communist Party when 10,000-members circled the leadership's Beijing compound in protest on April 25, 1999.
Falun Gong says it has tens of millions of followers in China and 40 other countries.
The government, which claims the group had two million members at its peak, says membership has dwindled to roughly 40,000. Recent state media reports have focused on those who have left the group and resumed normal lives.
China blocks Web sites it deems politically sensitive and has jammed radio broadcasts it viewed as hostile to its Communist government.
BEIJING (AP) -- Breaking months of silence, Falun Gong's leader is telling his followers that China's crackdown on the banned spiritual movement is an ``evil-wrought'' test foretold by the 16th-century French soothsayer Nostradamus.
Li Hongzhi, who disappeared from public view shortly after Beijing outlawed his multimillion member group in July, addressed his followers in an obscure poem and two at times unfathomable statements published on a Falun Gong Web site.
While Li's followers have defied the crackdown with protests that have seen thousands hauled away, many beaten and, practitioners say, some killed by police, Li has fueled his mystique with silence.
The former government grain clerk, who moved to New York in 1998, six years after founding Falun Gong, gave interviews and issued statements shortly after the government banned his movement as a menace to society and Communist Party authority.
Since then, however, the only sighting has been a photo published Jan. 19 and posted on Falun Gong Web sites of Li sitting cross-legged on a rocky nook on a cliff, apparently meditating.
The caption says the photo was shot ``after the Master left New York in July'' but gives no details about where or when it was taken or where Li is now.
Likewise, neither his statements nor his poem, titled ``The Knowing Heart,'' shed light on Li's whereabouts.
Falun Gong spokeswoman Gail Rachlin said Friday she hasn't seen Li since last July, but ``as far as I know he's still around the New York area.''
In a statement dated June 28, Li said Nostradamus' prediction that ``in the year 1999 and seven months, from the skies will come a Great King of Terror'' foretold the government crackdown on Falun Gong in July 1999.
Nostradamus, an astrologer and physician, published a book of prophecies which contained a series of rhymed quatrains grouped in hundreds, each said to represent a century. Because of their cryptic style and content -- commingling French, Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew words -- the prophecies have stirred much controversy. Some are said to have foretold actual historical events, while others, having no apparent meaning, are said to foretell events in the future.
In his poem, Li appeared to indicate that followers who weather the crackdown will be revealed as true believers.
``The mountains shake, the seas churn, and the ferocious waves billow ...,'' he wrote. ``Some flee for their lives, deserting capsized boats and torn sails. As the mud and sand are completely sifted, gold shines forth.''
His other statement referred to ``those who've been sifted out during the evil-wrought tests,'' apparently practitioners who have abandoned Falun Gong in the face of government pressure, having had ``some negative effects'' on the group.
But ``disciples who have passed the comprehensive and most rigorous tests have laid a rock-solid foundation'' for the movement, Li wrote.
Li also appeared to defend his silence, writing: ``The enormous test at present is to see how Dafa fares and how students conduct themselves in Master's absence. How could Master speak out? How could I again tell you what to do?''
The Dafa, or ``Great Law,'' is how Falun Gong followers refer to their blend of slow-motion exercises, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and Li's often unorthodox ideas. Followers believe Falun Gong promotes health, moral living and good citizenship.
Although China has banned, confiscated and destroyed books, publications and tapes that Falun Gong practitioners used, Li urged them to keep studying ``every day with a calm mind.''
``Some volunteers go long periods of time without reading or studying.... How can they do a good job for Dafa?'' Li said in the statement dated June 16. ``The only way to prevent the old evil forces from taking advantage of the gaps in your mind is to make good use of your time to study.''
Meanwhile, Falun Gong volunteers planned to begin broadcasts Saturday to China on short-wave radio and online to counter the Chinese government's vilification of the group.
The hour-long daily broadcasts in Chinese are to inform people in China ``of the true extent and nature of the persecution, to break the information blockage intentionally set by the Chinese authorities, and to help practitioners in China whose basic freedoms have been taken away and whose lives are in danger,'' the group said in a statement.
Overseas members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement will start broadcasting to China from tomorrow in a bid to counter the influence of the state media.
The official Web site of Falun Gong said the radio channel, operated by US volunteers, would launch a programme targeting China's audience each day from 10pm-11pm on 9.915Hz.
"The aim [of the radio programme] is to spread positive news about Falun Gong and clarify the doubts to the compatriots on the mainland," an announcement posted on the Web site said. "It is to tell the truth and let the audience have a comprehensive and objective view of Falun Gong."
It said the broadcasters were eager to reach the mainland audience as official media had carried distorted descriptions of the spiritual movement, while those who spoke out had been jailed or silenced.
Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy claims internal government documents have admitted foreign radio channels such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America have an audience of more than 50 million on the mainland.
"Since these radio channels have a profound impact on the mainland, officials have jammed the broadcasts of Voice of America and Free Asia [fairly effectively]," the centre said.
It said the Falun Gong channel was based in the United States and complied with US regulations. Many disgruntled mainlanders relied on foreign radio channels to acquire news not available through the mainland media, the centre said. Listening to radio channels operated by "foreigners" is taboo in China and broadcasters complain they are "jammed" by authorities.
A pregnant woman, one of the three Falun Gong members denied entry to Hong Kong, is on hunger strike inside the airport's restricted zone.
Wendy Fang Wenqing, 30, who is five months pregnant, has been in the airport since arriving from San Francisco on Wednesday morning. She has refused to eat since. Ms Fang, although married to a US resident, still travels on a mainland passport. She said immigration officials had refused her entry and urged her to return to the US because she did not have a valid visa.
"About five to six uniformed officials tried to push me on board a plane to Taipei today and yesterday," she said by phone. "They said they refused my entry because of my unknown intention."
She said she wanted to see her parents in Shanghai and see the Buddha statue on Lantau Island.
Ms Fang said officials questioned her about other sect followers during the inquiries. "They asked me for a list of people who practise Falun Gong and our leaders," she said.
The other two sect members were sent back where they came from. Yang Min, also a Chinese citizen, said he had become a "human ball" as his Japan work visa had expired but he was forced on board a plane back to Japan yesterday afternoon.
Yeung Tsui-ping, the third Falun Gong follower refused entry on Wednesday, was sent back to Macau soon after his arrival.
An Immigration Department spokesman said the bar had nothing to do with their sect. They were refused entry because they did not meet immigration requirements. He said the Government did not have a blacklist of Falun Gong followers.
A pregnant member of the Falun Gong movement, who became ill during a hunger strike at Chek Lap Kok, was awaiting deportation after being discharged from hospital on Friday morning.
Wendy Fang Wenqing, 32, and five months pregnant began the hunger strike after being refused entry into Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Early on Thursday, immigration officers sent her to Princess Margaret Hospital because they were worried about her health.
Ms Fang followed medical advice to eat again after her blood glucose level was found to be below average.
She had intended to return to her native Shanghai to visit relatives from San Francisco, but was refused entry into Hong Kong on June 28.
''I am doing my best to go back to Shanghai via Hong Kong though I am being lobbied to go back to the states,'' Ms Fang said. ''I will start my hunger strike again.''
The Immigration Deparment said Ms Fang was detained for failing to meet theentry requirement.
''She does not carry a valid visa; that is why she was refused entry,'' department information officer Yuen Sung-chi said.
''We will arrange to send her back to the America as soon as possible,'' Mr Yeun added.
A Falun Gong spokesman said another sect member, Yang Min from Japan, was refused entry at the same time and sent back to Tokyo. On Wednesday another Falun Gong member, from Macau, was also refused entry.
Police detained 15 members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement at Tiananmen Square yesterday, according to a witness.
The practitioners, mostly elderly women who appeared to be from the countryside, were ordered into police vans between 10.30am and 11.15am, the amateur photographer said.
Two younger practitioners tried to resist police and were pushed into the vans, the witness said.
The protesters had tried to unfurl the Falun Gong's trademark yellow banners to express their support for the movement, which many sect members claim has helped to turn around their lives.
A Falun Gong practitioner in Beijing said the number of arrests in such a short period of time was not unusual. "It's not a special day. Every day there are people out there getting arrested," he said.
A Hong Kong-based human rights group said 100 practitioners, most in Tiananmen Square and at the National People's Congress' complaints bureau, were arrested every day.
"There's no special reason. They just go on their own," said Frank Lu, director of the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
Falun Gong is a traditional mystic belief based on the teachings of exiled master Li Hongzhi, who advocates Confucian and Buddhist moral values and group breathing and meditation exercises.
The Chinese Government banned the movement in July last year after labelling it an "evil cult".
Tens of thousands of practitioners have since been detained and core leaders given jail terms of up to 18 years for protesting and refusing to give up their beliefs.
Meanwhile, the human rights group also reported that a PLA officer had been committed to a psychiatric hospital for refusing to renounce his belief in the
Lieutenant Colonel Zhao Xinli was sent on May 29 to the army's psychiatrichospital in Beijing, which also is holding at least five other Falun Gong adherents from
the military, the centre said.
The group said Zhao was being given daily injections of drugs that are making him extremely weak.
Zhao, dressed in civilian clothes, took part in a New Year's protest by Falun Gong followers in Tiananmen Square.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
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