"Beijing attacks SAR Falun Gong leader"
A Falun Gong leader in Hong Kong was singled out as a "a core member of the evil cult" in a lengthy Xinhua editorial last night, a day after the spiritual sect announced it would hold an international meeting in the SAR. Xinhua said Kan Hung-cheung was a troublemaker who helped organise protests during President Jiang Zemin's visit to Macau for the handover anniversary celebrations last month. "On December 19, the evil cult's Hong Kong Falun Gong core member Kan Hung-cheung encouraged 31 members to take more followers to gather in Macau," the article said.
"That night, their evil cult followers in Macau communicated with their counterparts in Hong Kong to request some 30 members to stage a 'spiritual exercise' on December 20 at the height of the celebration."
The article praised the Macau authorities for refusing entry to the Falun Gong members, who it alleged tried to cause more trouble by "making a big fuss" to blacken the image of China.
However, it did not comment on the upcoming international meeting, which has been scheduled for January 14 at City Hall, Central. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs City Hall, said it has approved renting the venue to the sect. The event is expected to attract about 800 sect members from Hong Kong and overseas.
Last night, Mr Kan said he was not afraid of being singled out. "[The mainland Government] has called me that before so I am not surprised," he said.
"I am not afraid. This has been part of their tactics all along in repressing Falun Gong - by personal attacks, making charges without evidence.
"Obviously I won't go to the mainland and I have not tried to do so. Mainland authorities have a blacklist and I am sure I am on that list."
The Xinhua editorial said the sect would self-destruct by the unjust acts its founder Li Hongzhi encouraged his followers to commit.
It contained a long list of wrongdoing allegedly committed by the sect's members at the urging of Mr Li. This included protests by hundreds of members at Tiananmen Square on Monday. They were immediately arrested and detained, the article said. Witnesses said many were beaten before being taken away.
The editorial also said Falun Gong activities had expanded to other cities in Asia. It mentioned with approval that Singapore had charged 15 sect members over a demonstration on New Year's Eve in the island state.
In a speech made during his Macau visit, Mr Jiang said the Macau Government should not allow people to stage activities against the central Government and Hong Kong should follow a similar policy.
Falun Gong, which draws its philosophy and meditation exercises from Taoism, Buddhism, and unorthodox ideas from Mr Li, was banned in China almost two years ago.
HONG KONG - Chinese officials have lashed out at a Hong Kong organizer for the Falun Gong spiritual sect, calling him ``a backbone member of the evil cult'' who has incited others into staging illegal demonstrations in Macau.
A lengthy editorial carried by China's state-run Xinhua News Agency singled out Kan Hung-cheung for mobilizing Falun Gong members in Hong Kong to take part in protests in Macau during President Jiang Zemin's visit last month.
``The evil cult of Hong Kong Falun Gong's backbone member, Kan Hung-cheung, encouraged 31 members to lead more followers to gather in Macau,'' the article said. Xinhua accused the Falun Gong adherents of ``inciting troubles and creating chaos'' in an attempt to spoil the anniversary celebration of Macau's transfer from Portugal to China.
Kan on Friday called the comments a ``fact-twisting attack on Falun Gong.''
``If they didn't repress us, there would be no need for us to stand up and tell the truth,'' Kan said. ``As the suppressions were so brutal and inhumane, we have to tell the world.''
Kan disputed contentions that Falun Gong's frequent and high-profile protests are intended to be subversive and to provoke the Chinese government, which has banned the group on the mainland. The government is conducting a fierce crackdown that Falun Gong says has led to numerous deaths of followers in custody.
Xinhua mentioned an incident in which Chinese police intercepted a group of Falun Gong followers and confiscated 16 pigeons that had ``illegal propaganda strips'' attached to them and were intended to be freed on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Xinhua said Falun Gong has been supported by ``western anti-China powers, Taiwan independence and democratic movement advocates'' with an intention to ``westernize and split'' China. The article also condemned Falun Gong for giving donations to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, an organization which often exposes alleged government suppression of activists.
HONG KONG - Followers of Falun Gong in Hong Kong on Friday said they would not be intimidated by threats from Beijing and vowed to push ahead with hosting a conference in the Chinese territory later this month.
"I am sure they (Beijing) intend to threaten us but we won't be affected by these attacks," Kan Hung-cheung, spokesman for the Hong Kong Falun Gong, told Reuters.
Falun Gong is banned on mainland China, but is legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony which was promised a high degree of autonomy when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
An article by China's official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday accused Falun Gong members in Hong Kong and Macau of stirring trouble and sullying China's image.
Kan was singled out as "a core member of the evil cult" for encouraging 30 other members of the movement to gather in Macau during its first anniversary handover celebrations on December 19.
They were all denied entry to Macau for the event.
The Xinhua report came a day after the Hong Kong Falun Gong group announced it would be holding an annual conference in Hong Kong on January 14 at a venue rented from the local government.
While the article made no reference to the conference, it slammed the spiritual movement for vilifying the Chinese government in recent large-scale gatherings which took place in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
The territory has been highly-sensitive to any attempt to encroach on its basic rights and freedoms.
Some analysts said it was premature to say China was trying to pressure Hong Kong in to toeing its harsh line on the movement.
"It remains to be seen if the Hong Kong government would change its stand because of such reports. So far, it has been very liberal," political analyst Andy Ho said.
But others fear Hong Kong's autonomy could be threatened if Falun Gong activism continued.
"Beijing is getting impatient. If it feels Hong Kong is being used as a base for subversion, the local government might come under pressure to intervene," said sociology professor Lau Siu-kai at the Chinese University.
CONFERENCE TO GO AHEAD
Organisers of the Falun Gong conference said they expected a turnout of around 1,000 people.
In mainland China, the crackdown on Falun Gong, which combines meditation and breathing exercises with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings, began in July 1999.
Practitioners believe some 50,000 followers have been detained and many sent to labour camps without trial.
Rights groups say around 90 adherents have died while in detention on mainland China.
Hong Kong has been much more relaxed towards the group, which stages frequent protests in public places.
The Hong Kong government, whose official stance has always been that any religious group could continue as long as it abided by the law, declined to comment on the Xinhua article.
SHANGHAI - Civil disobedience by the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong shows no sign of slowing in the New Year and may be ratcheting up to a new level.
In a New Year's Day message to followers, posted on the group's official Web site (www.clearwisdom. net), the movement's exiled founder, Li Hongzhi, warned that Falun Gong followers facing persecution could rightfully "go beyond the limits of forbearance." Forbearance is one of the principal virtues promoted by his discipline.
"If the evil has already reached the point where it is unsavable and unkeepable, various measures at different levels can be used to stop it and eradicate it," he said, writing from the United States, where he now lives.
That suggests that 2001 will be a year of increased activity among the core of true believers in China who are not in detention or under strict police supervision. The number of those followers is impossible to estimate.
Chinese authorities say it is under two million far fewer than the 20 million estimated by one government agency to be practicing the discipline at the height of its popularity in the late 1990's. Mr. Li, meanwhile, continues to claim 100 million adherents worldwide, most of them in China.
China's efforts to crush the movement have reduced its numbers, but have also hardened the resolve of those who remain loyal to Mr. Li.
Hundreds of Falun Gong followers staged scattered protests in Tiananmen Square this week, their brief attempts to unfurl banners quickly overwhelmed by the huge plainclothes police force that China fields on the square during holidays and significant anniversaries of the 18- month campaign to suppress the group.
Witnesses reported that one man was beaten on Monday until his head and the surrounding ground were splattered with blood. And a Hong Kong-based human rights group reported that in December four adherents had died in confrontations with the police or while in custody.
Mr. Li, a former government grain clerk from northeastern China, founded Falun Gong in the early 1990's as one of many exercise regimes that developed at the time based on the traditional Chinese practice of qigong, exercises intended to channel the body's vital energy, or qi, to various ends. Mr. Li went further than other self-styled qigong masters by marrying his exercises to an encompassing cosmology loosely based on Buddhist and Taoist tenets.
His promise of salvation from a morally degenerating world struck a chord with many Chinese, particularly those who felt spiritually bereft as China effectively abandoned Marxism and Maoism as moral guides amid the growing materialism of the 1990's.
But Mr. Li's growing popularity, as well as the mystical mix of his belief system he teaches that Falun Gong is the original law of the universe and that faithful followers attain supernatural powers drew increasing criticism from the Communist Party. He left China for the United States in 1998 under pressure from the government.
Whether Mr. Li's New Year message advocates more militant action than the group's remarkably passive behavior to date is not clear. While his calls to "defend the Fa," or Great Law of Falun Gong, have kept adherents streaming into Tiananmen Square, his doctrine of forbearance has prevented most from resisting the beatings and detention that they invariably receive there.
But his followers' activism has risen over the past six months as Mr. Li's appeals have grown increasingly urgent, even politicized. In September, Falun Gong's official Web site began attacking President Jiang Zemin as the man personally responsible for Falun Gong's persecution, calling him "the highest representative of the evil force in the human world."
In the past few weeks, students at Beijing University, traditionally the wellhead of political activism in China, have found Falun Gong fliers left on their dormitory doors or bicycles.
And Falun Gong followers outside China have grown increasingly sophisticated in getting Mr. Li's messages to followers inside, frequently changing the address of its official Web site to circumvent China's Internet censors.
Despite efforts to block Falun Gong Web sites in China, the English-language version of the group's official site carrying Mr. Li's New Year's message can currently be seen by Internet subscribers in China.
And the Hong Kong government has granted permission to group members there to hold a regional convention on Jan. 14 something that is certain to provoke Beijing.
The group has even sponsored a letter-writing campaign to nominate Mr. Li for the Nobel Peace Prize. John F. Kutolowski, an associate professor of history at the State University College at Brockport, N.Y., and the father of a Falun Gong follower in the United States, has written to academics at many American universities asking them to join him in nominating Mr. Li for the prize.
Mr. Kutolowski declined to comment on the letter-writing campaign, saying only that it was a private initiative and that he was not among those people asked by the Nobel Committee to nominate candidates for the prize.
Mr. Li, meanwhile, has begun speaking in increasingly apocalyptic terms. He has said the current struggles in China are leading to an apparently transcendent event that he calls the Consummation, in which his disciples will "leave" and "all bad people will be destroyed by gods." Those who are left will pay for their past sins with "horrible suffering," he has said.
China has responded to Mr. Li's shift in tone by declaring late last year that Falun Gong had become a reactionary political force bent on subverting China's socialist system. Known dissidents in Shanghai have been warned to steer clear of any contact with Falun Gong followers or face immediate detention.
And last week the standing committee of China's Parliament approved new rules defining illegal uses of the Internet that singled out its use "to organize evil religious cults" or "for communications between cult members" as among the most egregious offenses. The Chinese government has officially defined Falun Gong as an evil cult.
The implication is that Beijing is worried that as Falun Gong metamorphoses into a more political movement it could knit together an alliance of dissident networks around the country.
The government has tried to discredit Mr. Li by using his words against him. A New China News Agency report last week said that a dozen followers in China had committed mass suicide to attain Consummation and that dozens more had been prevented from doing so by the police.
The report could not immediately be verified, but Mr. Li has in the past spoken out against suicide as a means of reaching salvation.
Mr. Li, though, does express growing impatience with the suppression of his movement in China and has suggested that followers confronting China's police are among the closest to reaching the group's ultimate spiritual goal.
"The present performance of the evil shows that they are already utterly inhuman and completely without righteous thoughts," Mr. Li said in his message posted on the Internet on Monday. "So such evil's persecution of the Fa can no longer be tolerated."
BEIJING - Through regular open protests and unceasing dissemination of millions of items of underground propaganda, the banned Falun Gong sect still poses a serious threat to China's social order, the official news agency Xinhua said in a lengthy editorial Thursday.
Xinhua blamed the continuing strength of the sect on supporters overseas, saying, ''Those Sinophobic Western forces, unceasing in their plots to 'Westernize' or 'split up' the Chinese nation; those foreign enemies who are fundamentally unwilling to witness a flourishing and powerful China; they see in the 'Falun Gong' cult a good chance to make a mess of China and undermine the political strength of Chinese regime.''
The editorial effectively admitted Beijing's harsh 14-month crackdown on the spiritual group has not been effective, citing numerous instances of adherents' continued activities aimed at winning public attention.
In the face of a national media blackout that keeps all but officially sanctioned negative stories off the airwaves and out of the newspapers, sect members have kept up their own campaign to prick the public conscience through painted signs, private letters and regular public demonstrations.
The demonstrations are put down regularly, often with bloody violence.
The Xinhua editorial told of how ''several hundred'' adherents disrupted kite flying and bird watching on Tiananmen Square over the New Year's weekend with their protests.
Over New Year's Eve and into the next day, officers in plain clothes and uniforms beat down several hundred protesters and herded them into waiting buses, witnesses said.
"4 more Falun Gong members die in custody: human rights group"
BEIJING - Four members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have died in police detention in China's Shandong and Sichuan provinces, according to a Hong Kong-based human rights group.
The Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said family members of two of the followers, detained in Shandong Province, were informed of their deaths by authorities on Dec. 24.
The authorities said they died of heart problems, it said.
A total of 92 Falun Gong members have died at the hands of Chinese authorities since the movement was outlawed by Beijing in July 1999, it said.
On Monday, Chinese police detained more than 100 followers of Falun Gong after they held a New Year's Day protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions and preaches that good health and morality can be attained through meditation and special exercises.
SINGAPORE - Fifteen followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have been charged in a Singapore court with obstructing police and illegal assembly for holding a vigil commemorating members said to have died in Chinese jails.
The 15, including a pregnant woman, were charged on Tuesday, a police statement said. No pleas were taken and the case will be heard in court next Tuesday.
Thirteen members of the group, which is banned in China as an evil cult that brainwashes and cheats members, were released on bail of S$2,000 ($1,160) each on Tuesday.
The remaining two, who are Chinese nationals, were released on Wednesday after producing their passports as required by the court for bail, a police spokesman told Reuters.
Falun Gong is legally registered in Singapore but all organisations require a permit to assemble in a public place.
About 60 followers of the group gathered in a local park before midnight on New Year's Eve with two large placards bearing the names and photographs of dead adherents.
Police said they refused an order to disperse and blocked officers trying to seize the placards as evidence.
The nine men and six women arrested included two Singaporeans, eight Chinese nationals living in the city state on work and student visas and five permanent residents.
China has tortured to death four Falun Gong followers since October, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Tuesday.
The latest incidents brought the number of Falun Gong adherents who have died of ill treatment by Chinese authorities during arrest or in custody to at least 92 since July 1999, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.
In China, uniformed and plain clothed police swooped on protests by Falun Gong followers on Monday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, detaining hundreds and beating those who resisted.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings. It first shocked Beijing with a 10,000-strong protest in April 1999 and was banned in China later that year.
HONG KONG - Hong Kong practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement said on Wednesday their annual international conference this year will take place in a government-owned building for the first time.
Mainland China has banned Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, and labelled it an "evil cult." But the movement is legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony which reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997 to become a highly autonomous Chinese city.
Sophie Xiao, a spokeswoman for the movement in the territory, told Reuters the Falun Dafa 2001 Hong Kong Experience Sharing Conference would take place in the government-owned City Hall in the central business district on January 14.
Past conferences were held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is owned by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, a quasi-government trade promotion body.
Xiao said she expected around 1,000 practitioners from Hong Kong and around the world to attend the coming event.
HONG KONG - In a move that could anger Beijing, officials in Hong Kong have granted permission to the Falun Gong spiritual group to hold an international conference inside its City Hall.
The Jan. 14 meeting by the sect - which has faced a fierce crackdown in China but is legal in Hong Kong - is expected to attract up to 1,000 participants from Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States, said a local Falun Gong spokesman, Kan Hung-cheung.
Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department confirmed that it had allowed the sect to rent a public concert venue in City Hall.
``Our venues are open to any associations, communities and societies registered under the laws of the Hong Kong government,'' said department spokeswoman June Tong.
``You are eligible to hold any activities as long as it is lawful and related to the purpose of our venues,'' Tong said.
The Hong Kong office of China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a reporter's inquiry about the conference.
Falun Gong adherents say they have been blocked previously from renting space in local hotels. Kan said it will be the first such meeting in a government venue - although the sect has previously displayed pictures outside a local cultural center showing alleged abuses carried out by Chinese authorities against Falun Gong.
The Chinese central government has sent thousands of Falun Gong's followers to prison and labor camps. Adherents have also recently run into trouble with authorities in Macau and Singapore for attempting to demonstrate without permission.
Fifteen followers of the movement who were arrested in Singapore for staging an unauthorized vigil on New Year's Eve were out on bail Wednesday. Thirteen of the detainees were released Tuesday. The remaining two, both Chinese citizens, were released late Wednesday after they surrendered their passports, Subordinate Court bail officer Raymond Loh said.
They were charged with obstructing a police officer and illegal assembly, charges that carry a maximum three-month jail term and fines. The accused are scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 9.
The group were among some 80 Falun Gong members who gathered in a Singapore park to honor fellow believers they say died in police custody in China.
Human rights groups say at least 92 Falun Gong members have died in detention, including four who were reported dead Tuesday by the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Beijing.
Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers, most of them in China, with its combination of slow-motion exercises and its philosophy drawn from Taoism, Buddhism and the often unorthodox ideas of founder Li Hongzhi.
HONG KONG - Torture and persecution by Chinese authorities have caused the deaths of four more followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday.
The incidents brought to at least 92 the number of Falun Gong adherents who have died of ill treatment by Chinese authorities while in custody or during arrest since July 1999, the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said.
Last December, the movement's Hong Kong practitioners said China had tortured to death 95 mainland followers since Beijing began cracking down on Falun Gong in July 1999.
In a statement, the Hong Kong-based information centre said the latest victims included 33-year-old Xu Bing and 34-year-old Lou Aiqing from China's eastern Shandong province.
Police arrested the pair on December 20 when they were posting Falun Gong slogans on walls in Shandong's Qingdao city and beat them in detention, it said.
On December 24, police informed the families of Xu and Lou that they had died of heart disease. Spotting many wounds on the bodies, the families took pictures of the corpses, only to have the films seized by police, the human rights group said.
In the same province, 63-year-old Xia Shucai was arrested on October 1 when he was about to leave for Beijing for a rally at the Tiananmen square, the statement said.
When he refused to pay a fine of 2,000 Chinese yuan (US$242), Xia was beaten repeatedly which caused his death on December 22. Members of his family saw wounds and bruises on his body.
In the central Sichuan province, 32-year-old Su Qinghua died in a botched police attempt to arrest her on December 20. She fell to her death from her sixth-floor apartment as she grappled with a policeman attempting to abseil into her apartment.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings. It first shocked Beijing with a 10,000-strong protest in April in 1999 and was banned in China later that year.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
[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]