HONG KONG, Sept. 30 (Kyodo) - Hong Kong police said Saturday they have arrested eight people, including three Japanese, along the territory's border with China.
The group of five women and three men was found in the restricted Sha Tau Kok area without entry permits early Friday morning, a police spokesperson said.
They were charged and appeared in a magistrate court Friday afternoon, she said, refusing to give further details.
A spokesman for the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong said the three Japanese were released on recognizance after admitting their guilt in court.
The Chinese-language Oriental Daily News reported Saturday that the eight are believed to be members of the Falun Gong religious movement, which has been banned by Beijing. The report alleged the group was attempting to enter the mainland to stage a protest on China's national day Sunday.
The newspaper identified the three Japanese as Ran Koma, Toshinchi Hashimoto and Osamu Kamiya.
The rest of the group consisted of four Chinese and a Malaysian, the daily said.
One Chinese man, who allegedly has a Japanese passport, denied charges of entering the off-limits area without a permit in court and was granted bail pending trial, the newspaper added.
BEIJING (AP) - Police checked vehicles entering China's capital to thwart a threatened protest by followers of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement on Sunday, the 51st anniversary of communist rule, a rights group reported.
Spot checks on major roads around Beijing began Friday and continued Saturday after two weeks of police sweeps that saw 600 Falun Gong members detained in nearby provinces, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy reported.
The report follows signs of government nervousness and dispatches in Hong Kong media that 10,000 sect followers were heading for Beijing.
A letter from ``All China's Falun Gong Students'' recently posted on the group's U.S. Web site warned of protests if police stepped up detentions ahead of the National Day holiday.
China's cabinet, the State Council, issued a directive, carried in state-run newspapers Saturday, ordering government offices to tighten security over the weeklong holiday.
The order focused on general safety and demanded particular attention be paid to explosives.
Although Falun Gong members have kept their protests against the communist government's ban on the group peaceful, other disaffected groups have not.
Turkic Muslims in China's Central Asian territory of Xinjiang have waged a sporadic bombing campaign against Chinese rule and three years ago bombed a bus in Beijing.
National Day is China's most public holiday for celebrating the Communist Party's takeover on Oct. 1, 1949.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other members of the communist and government elite gathered on the holiday's eve for a reception in the Great Hall of the People, next to Tiananmen Square.
Premier Zhu Rongji, in the traditional National Day address, made only a vague, passing reference to worries of unrest by unemployed workers, poor farmers and Falun Gong members.
He referred to ``difficulties of one kind or another in our way ahead'' to a prosperous future.
People's Daily was more blunt. In an editorial to be published Sunday, the party's flagship newspaper urged Chinese to rally around the leadership to safeguard hard-won economic gains.
``Stability is the guarantor of reform and development,'' it said.
Uniformed and plainclothes police in the large numbers usual for a holiday kept careful watch on Tiananmen.
Chinese by the thousands flooded into the broad square to admire colorfully lit fountains, floral displays and a 30-foot-tall sculpture of Beijing's 2008 Olympic bid logo.
Chinese leaders banned Falun Gong 14 months ago as a threat to communist rule and as a public menace that cheated followers and caused 1,500 deaths. Followers, however, maintain the group's slow-motion exercises, Taoist and Buddhist cosmology and the teachings of founder Li Hongzhi promote health and morality.
While the Hong Kong-based rights group's report could not be immediately confirmed, the actions it describes fit previous police sweeps ahead of sensitive anniversaries. Police have previously set up checkpoints and ordered provincial governments to round up Falun Gong members to keep them out of Beijing.
Another group, New York-based Human Rights in China, said police in Beijing have over the past few weeks evicted rural migrants, street children, beggars and others from the city as part of an annual clean-up campaign.
Also on Saturday, French Foreign Ministry official Jean Felix-Paginon said that China plans to revise, but not abolish its greatly abused system allowing police to send criminal suspects to forced labor camps without trial.
Felix-Paginon led a European Union delegation that met with Chinese officials in Beijing on Friday as part of a twice-yearly EU-China human rights dialogue.
Reform of labor-camp detentions aside, China offered scant other evidence of progress on human rights in a one-day grilling, he said.
BEIJING Waging a religious battle with the Vatican, meditation groups and human-rights critics, China said Thursday that the banned Falun Gong was scheming with political enemies bent on toppling the government.
"Falun Gong is not only ingratiating itself with Western anti-China forces, but also ganging up with overseas and domestic pro-democracy groups as well as Tibetan and Taiwanese separatists to form an anti-Communist Party united front that is plotting to overthrow the government," said a state media commentary.
The New China news agency commentary said China's various enemies gathered twice last March in support of America's "plot," once at U.S. congressional hearings and again at the annual United Nations human-rights debate in Geneva.
That Tibetans, Taiwanese, Falun Gong adherents and well-known exiled Chinese dissidents Wei Jingsheng and Harry Wu all came out together to back U.S. human-rights criticism "made perfectly clear their common stance," said the commentary in the People's Daily.
The attack on disparate groups united by their grievances against the Communist Party came amid a bitter dispute between Beijing and the Vatican over a Holy See plan to canonize 120 Chinese martyrs on Oct. 1, China's National Day.
The Vatican says those to be made saints died for their faith in anti-Christian massacres between 1648 and 1930. China says they were agents of Western colonialism who deserved death.
Oct. 1, the 51st anniversary of communist rule, is one of many "sensitive dates" in China; it is when those with complaints against the government try to stage public protests.
Diplomats said China's recourse to rhetoric had more to do with an upcoming Communist Party plenum than with National Day worries.
"Such retro-rhetoric could be a backlash against the forces in favor of openness by conservative forces jockeying" ahead of the Oct. 9-11 plenum, said one Western diplomat.
Next month will also bring the first anniversary of the Chinese parliament's rubber-stamping a law against "evil cults." Beijing banned Falun Gong in July 1999 and says it has jailed about 150 organizers of the spiritual group.
Falun Gong, whose members continue to protest the ban, say thousands of adherents are in labor camps without trial. A Hong Kong-based human-rights group says that at least 52 adherents have died in custody since the July 1999 ban.
The news agency's commentary repeated China's assertion that the practice of Falun Gong meditation had caused 1,500 deaths and 600 cases of mental illness.
In the three weeks that Xiaohua Du has been under house arrest in China for carrying banned religious materials into the country, friends and supporters of the Atlanta engineer have worked tirelessly for her return to the United States --- but with little success.
Du, a 29-year-old Chinese citizen who has lived in Atlanta for five years, and her husband were detained at Fuzhou City airport Sept. 8 after customs officials found materials pertaining to the Falun Gong movement in their possession. The couple had traveled to China to visit his ailing father.
To press for her release, practitioners of the movement in Atlanta have demonstrated in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., confronted China's ambassador on his visit to Atlanta last weekend, and sent petitions to members of Congress and human rights organizations urging them to pressure Chinese authorities.
But without a nod from the Chinese government, which is handling the case, Du and her husband, Shean Lin, remain in Fuzhou province.
China considers the multimillion-member Falun Gong movement a threat to its stability, and has brutally cracked down on its adherents. At least 52 followers have died in police custody, including two this month, according to the Hong-Kong based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Followers insist it's a spiritual practice with no political aspirations. They plan to protest their persecution at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, China's National Day.
Since their detention, Du and her husband have faced three interrogations and had their tickets and passports confiscated, said Hong Zhou, Du's brother-in-law.
"The Chinese government has been saying to the (U.S.) State Department 'they were released on the first day and they are free to travel,' but they wouldn't even let her go to Beijing to get her visa renewed," said Zhou, a software engineer in Baltimore. "I am afraid that if they don't let her return soon, it may affect her job in the U.S."
If Du, who took a two-week leave from work, is terminated from her job for prolonged absence, she would lose her U.S. work status and be unable to return to Atlanta.
Officials at the electronics company in Norcross where Du is employed said they were aware of her situation, but any action the company took would be up to its legal department.
Meanwhile, adherents of Falun Gong in Atlanta are continuing their campaign to keep Du's plight in the public eye.
A group of practitioners gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy Sept. 20 and practiced meditation and slow rhythmic movements to demonstrate the physical elements of their faith and its nonviolent philosophy.
Another group tried to meet with the Chinese ambassador, Li Zhaoxin, during his visit to Atlanta Sunday, but was rebuffed, both at the airport and at a banquet in Dunwoody.
"We rented three hotel rooms just to be able to use the lobby of the hotel where he spoke," said Yuan Li, an Atlanta engineer. "When he saw us, he took the kitchen elevator and exited, telling the audience it was a special security measure he had to take because the Falun Gong practitioners were planning to hurt him."
Also, Becky Yao, a piano teacher and Atlanta resident for 40 years, has started a letter-writing campaign to ask state and national lawmakers for their intervention in Du's detention.
"The Chinese government won't listen to us, so we're hoping that by going through the diplomatic channel, we can use a bigger voice in helping us," said Yao.
Michael O'Reilly, national casework director for Amnesty International, said the Chinese government won't feel as obligated to release the couple as it would if they were American citizens. But he added that he strongly believed pressure from abroad would eventually work in freeing the couple.
"The Chinese government puts up a good front that international pressure doesn't matter to them, but it's all an equation to them," O'Reilly said. "If they feel the disadvantage outweighs the advantage in holding someone, they will relent."
BEIJING, Sept. 27 A Chinese intelligence officer who refused to renounce his belief in the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement died last week after he was confined to a cell at a labor camp and denied medical treatment for two months, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said today.
Tao Hongsheng, 44, had been serving a three-year term of "thought reform through labor" for unfurling a banner in Tiananmen Square in December protesting the government's continuing crackdown on what it considers a dangerous cult. He died Sept. 20 after suffering extreme diarrhea and edema for weeks, the rights group said.
"He couldn't get out of bed for 20 days . . . but the officials wouldn't do anything," his wife, Yu Fengyun, said in a telephone interview from their home in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province about 175 miles southwest of Beijing.
Tao's treatment fits the government's pattern of meting out harsh punishments to practitioners of Falun Gong, the Buddhist-like spiritual group that the state has declared an unprecedented threat to Communist rule. Yet more than 13 months into the country's largest campaign of repression since the 1989 crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, China has been unable to crush Falun Gong.
The Party has been especially troubled by its penetration into the government's military and security apparatus, key pillars of the regime's stability. Tao was one of many security and military officials who participated in Falun Gong; others include the chief of China's central military hospital, a high-ranking public security official, and numerous senior officers in the People's Liberation Army.
Tao's wife said her husband served 18 years in China's air force and once ranked as a deputy battalion commander at a base outside Shijiazhuang, a garrison area where Falun Gong is believed to have strong support among junior officers and soldiers. In 1994, Yu said, he transferred to the Hebei State Security Bureau, which reports directly to the Ministry of State Security, China's main intelligence agency.
Yu said she was unsure of her husband's duties, though she believed he handled the cases of residents who have been abroad or want to leave the country.
"He loved his country," she said. "He wasn't against the government. He just wanted tell the leaders that Falun Gong is not a cult, that it's good."
At least 32 Falun Gong members are believed to have died in police custody, and an estimated 3,000 have been sent to labor camps. The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy today also reported the Sept. 10 death in Hangzhou Province of a practitioner who had been forced into a psychiatric institution.
But Falun Gong adherents, organizing beyond the grasp of state security through e-mail and phone, continue to protest in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere. And many Chinese who once supported the government's ban now express exasperation at the brutality of the crackdown.
At least 10 million people are believed to have practiced Falun Gong's breathing and spiritual exercises in China. The group has attracted a broad cross section of followers, from urban workers on the margins of society drawn to its promise of health and well-being to old Party bureaucrats alienated by China's fast-changing society.
Yu said Tao, the father of two daughters, joined Falun Gong in 1996 because of health problems. When his condition improved, she said, he became a believer.
BEIJING (AP) - Two members of the banned Falun Gong sect have died in custody, the latest deaths in China's crackdown on the spiritual movement, a rights group reported Wednesday.
The deaths bring to at least 52 the number of Falun Gong followers who have died in detention, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported. While it has not commented on every case, the government has denied the deaths were the result of mistreatment.
In a letter to President Jiang Zemin, Falun Gong practitioners have threatened to mount more protests if authorities detain sect members ahead of National Day on Sunday.
``All the Falun Gong followers throughout China will go to Tiananmen Square to peacefully petition'' for an end to the crackdown on the group, said the letter dated Sept. 20. The letter was faxed to foreign news agencies and posted on the group's U.S.-based Web site.
Before it was outlawed in July 1999, Falun Gong attracted millions with its mix of exercise, meditation, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and the teachings of Li Hongzhi, who fled to the United States two years ago.
The communist government has mounted a media campaign to discredit the banned sect. An editorial Wednesday by the state-run Xinhua News Agency was typical fare, calling Falun Gong ``an evil, treasonous teaching'' and accusing it of causing more than 1,500 deaths.
In the latest case, state media reported Liu Hongfeng, a 36-year-old elementary school vice principal, hanged himself at home in the northern city of Lingwu on Sept. 16.
Liu was put into a mental hospital in June after efforts to persuade him to quit the sect failed, and was released in July when his attitude ``took a turn for the better,'' Xinhua said. The writings of the Falun Gong founder were found in the room with Liu's body, said a police officer who confirmed the Xinhua account.
The Hong Kong-based information center said Tao Hongsheng, a 46-year-old former policeman in Hebei province, died Sept. 20 after suffering from diarrhea and other ailments. Sentenced to three years for protesting in Tiananmen Square in December, Tao was held in a detention center in Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital, the group said.
Officials at the detention center were unavailable for comment.
Another sect follower, Shi Bei, died Sept. 10 after being put into a mental hospital in eastern Hangzhou city. During three months there, she was regularly denied food and given unspecified injections, the center said.
An official at the mental hospital refused to comment on the report.
HONG KONG, Sept 27 (Reuters) - A Chinese policeman who was also a follower of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement has died in a labour camp in northern Hebei province, a Hong Kong-based rights group said on Wednesday.
Tao Hongsheng, 46, was moved to a cell with three other Falun Gong members in July after he refused to renounce his faith, the Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said.
The former public security officer, serving a three-year labour re-education term for protesting China's crackdown on the group since December of last year, suffered severe diarrhoea and died on September 20.
He was given medical treatment only on September 13, but by then it was too late, the centre said.
Separately, 49-year-old Si Pei, a senior member of the group in eastern Hangzhou city, died on September 10 after being sent to a psychiatric hospital, the centre said.
The centre said at least 52 Falun Gong followers have died because of persecution since July 1999.
BEIJING, Sept. 27 (Kyodo) - Practitioners of the outlawed Falun Gong group continue to die from the poor conditions they are subjected to in jails and mental hospitals, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said Wednesday.
Tao Hongsheng, a 46-year-old former air force serviceman, died in prison Sept. 20 from dysentery and oedema because jailers denied him proper medical treatment, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a report.
Tao had worked for the State Security Bureau of eastern Hebei Province since leaving the air force in 1994. He was arrested while demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in December 1999 and sentenced to three years in jail.
He contracted the sickness while being confined to a ''special chamber'' where he was served only dirty food because he had refused to renounce his beliefs, the group said.
Others are dying because of ''medical treatment'' forced on practitioners for incorrectly diagnosed mental illness.
Shi Bei, a 49-year-old woman, died Sept. 10 after being injected with drugs in the eastern province of Hangzhou's No. 7 Mental Hospital, the rights group said.
The hospital refused to serve regular food, but nonetheless forced ''medication'' on its reluctant patients. The hospital refused to confirm the death.
Shi was hospitalized for mental illness in June 1999 for refusing to abandon Falun Gong.
Her son, who lives in Canada, said that his mother had no record of mental disease. He said his father remains in jail for practicing Falun Gong.
The rights group said that 52 Falun Gong practitioners have died from maltreatment or torture since July 1999.
BEIJING, China (AP) -- Two members of the banned Falun Gong sect have died in custody, one in a labor camp, the other in a psychiatric ward, in the latest deaths in China's 14-month-long crackdown on the spiritual movement, a rights group reported Wednesday.
The deaths of Tao Hongsheng and Shi Bei bring to at least 52 the number of followers to have died while incarcerated in Beijing's campaign against the group, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy reported.
While it has not commented on every case, the government has denied that any of the deaths were the result of mistreatment. But Falun Gong followers frequently report abuses by police, and police have grown frustrated by their seeming inability to quash the sect. They have beaten sect members in public view for peacefully protesting in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in recent months.
In a letter to President Jiang Zemin, practitioners have threatened to mount a new series of protests if authorities detain sect members in the run-up to National Day, on Sunday.
"All the Falun Gong followers throughout China will go to Tiananmen Square to peacefully petition" for an end to the crackdown, said the letter, dated Sept. 20 and signed by "All China's Falun Gong Students." The letter was faxed to foreign news agencies and posted on the group's U.S.-based Web site.
Before the crackdown, Falun Gong attracted millions with its eclectic mix of exercise, meditation, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and the teachings of Li Hongzhi, a former government clerk who fled to the United States two years ago. Believers say practice promotes health and morality.
But the communist government outlawed the group as a cult in July 1999, accusing it of cheating followers and causing at least 1,600 deaths.
In the latest death of a member, state media reported that Liu Hongfeng, a 36-year-old elementary school vice principal, hanged himself at home in the northern city of Lingwu on Sept. 16.
Liu was put into a mental hospital in June after efforts to persuade him to leave the sect failed, and he was released in late July when his attitude "took a turn for the better," the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The writings of Falun Gong founder Li were found in the room with Liu's body, said a police officer who confirmed the state media account.
Of the two alleged deaths in police custody, Tao Hongsheng, a 46-year-old former agent in the plainclothes police force in Hebei province, died on Sept. 20 after suffering for two months from severe diarrhea and other illnesses, the Information Center said.
Sentenced to three years for protesting in Tiananmen Square in December, Tao was held in a small room with two other Falun Gong members in a detention center in Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital, the group said. It added that Tao had been refused medical treatment until a week before he died.
Officials at the labor camp in Shijiazhuang were unavailable for comment.
Another sect follower, Shi Bei, died on Sept. 10 after being forcibly put into a mental hospital in eastern Hangzhou city. During her three months there, she was regularly denied food and given unspecified injections, the center said.
An official at the mental hospital refused to comment.
BEIJING, Sept 24 (Reuters) - China has demanded the United States reverse a recent court decision allowing the leader of a banned Chinese spiritual group to live in America, saying the man is wanted for rape and should be handed over.
Last week, an immigration court on the U.S.-administered island of Guam offered Zhang Hongbao, Chinese founder of the Zhong Gong meditation group, the right to stay in America under ``protection status from cruel punishment,'' the official Xinhua news agency said in an overnight report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said the decision allowed a suspected criminal to escape punishment and constituted a slander on the Chinese justice system, the Xinhua report said.
``China has expressed its strong resentment and firm opposition to the action made by the U.S. side, and strongly demands that the U.S. side correct its wrong decision and repatriate Zhang as soon as possible,'' Sun was quoted as saying.
``This action by the U.S. side helps a criminal suspect escape the punishment he deserves, and as a result the legitimate rights of the victims are not protected,'' Xinhua quoted him as saying.
SUSPECTED OF RAPE, COUNTERFEITING
The Chinese government launched a campaign this year to smash the Zhong Gong meditation group, which it has branded an ``evil cult'' that uses ``feudal superstition to deceive the masses.''
As with the Falun Gong spiritual group, which was outlawed last year, police have jailed group leaders and confiscated their property, according to human rights organisations.
Zhang fled to Guam in February, Xinhua said.
Both movements are based on traditional meditation exercises known as ``Qigong.'' But they also incorporate quasi-religious doctrines and fast-growing memberships, causing the ruling Communist Party to view the groups as threats to its authority.
The Xinhua article did not mention whether Zhang's role in Zhong Gong constituted a crime, saying instead the Chinese government had provided the United States with evidence of him raping followers, counterfeiting documents and immigrating illegally.
Human rights activists have said Beijing's pursuit of Zhang fits into a broad pattern of religious persecution in China, and Zhang would not receive a fair trial.
STILL IN DETENTION IN GUAM
The U.S. immigration court turned down Zhang's request for political asylum and did not offer him permanent resident's rights, but it allowed him to stay in America, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said.
The U.S. government apparently wants to avoid angering China unduly, partly to avoid jeopardising cooperation with China on transnational criminal investigations.
Sun was quoted saying deportation of Zhang to China would be to the ``benefit of the cooperation in law enforcement and bilateral relations between the two countries.''
The rights group in Hong Kong said on Sunday Zhang was still being held in a Guam detention centre, ostensibly for his protection, and that representatives from the Zhong Gong movement had arrived on the island to appeal for his freedom.
U.S. immigration officials could not be reached for comment.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
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