"China lambasts Falun Gong head after New Year note"
BEIJING - China launched a bitter personal attack on the exiled leader of the Falun Gong spiritual movement on Monday after he told followers in a New Year message they could go "beyond the limits of forbearance."
In the latest tirade against the movement, banned in mainland China, a commentary in the People's Daily accused its U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, of deifying himself and deliberately undermining the government and Communist Party.
Li has denied having any political agenda and adherents of Falun Gong -- also known as Falun Dafa -- say they are campaigning for official recognition of the movement as a religion.
But in a January 1 message posted on the group's official website (www.clearwisdom.net), Li said adherents facing persecution could rightfully go beyond the movement's principle virtue of forbearance.
"If the evil has already reached the point where it is unsavable and unkeepable, then various measures at different levels can be used to stop it and eradicate it," he said.
"The way the evil is currently performing shows that they are already utterly
inhuman and completely without righteous thoughts. Such evil's persecution of
the Fa can thus no longer be tolerated."
DAILY PROTESTS SINCE BAN
Falun Gong members have protested almost daily since Beijing banned the group last year, an extraordinary show of endurance in a country where any popular protest is usually crushed swiftly.
But protesters rarely resist detention, arrest or beatings by police and have even expressed sympathy with their captors, citing their belief in forbearance.
In the most recent unrest, police detained hundreds of Falun Gong followers who demonstrated on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on New Year's Day, some meditating and others unfurling yellow banners.
The People's Daily did not refer directly to Li's message, but it accused him of pursuing his own political agenda in collaboration with foreign "anti-China forces."
"When Li Hongzhi fabricated the so-called Falun Dafa, he had clear political motives and was concealing strong political ambitions right from the start," it said.
"He actively deifies himself, has people worship him as the founder of a religion, organises and plans political activities and plays a dangerous and malicious role in opposing the government."
FALUN GONG CONFERENCE IN HONG KONG
The commentary is part of a concerted media campaign against the group, which Beijing describes as an evil cult that cheats and brainwashes followers.
Chinese leaders were further antagonised when Falun Gong announced last week it would hold a conference on January 14 at a venue rented from the Hong Kong government.
Falun Gong 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 accused Falun Gong members in Hong Kong and Macau of stirring trouble and sullying China's image.
But the members said they would not be intimidated by threats from Beijing and vowed to push ahead with a conference they expect to attract 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 say they 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.
"Beijing, Falun Gong Trade Barbs"
BEIJING - China on Friday accused the outlawed Falun Gong sect of growing more ``disruptive'' in its protests, days after its leader made a rare appeal to followers to escalate their struggle against Beijing.
An article in several state-run newspapers blamed Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi for inciting members to extreme acts that upset public order and provoked clashes with police.
``Recently, Falun Gong has become more and more disruptive and noisy, fully displaying Falun Gong's true nature as an evil cult,'' the article said.
``Some extreme elements of Falun Gong have even gone so far as to try to commit suicide on Tiananmen Square, to try to make a big impact and soil the image of the motherland,'' the article said.
It also accused the spiritual group of resorting to novel methods to spread its ``illegal propaganda,'' saying police seized 16 pigeons that sect members had intended to release on Tiananmen Square.
A Falun Gong organizer in Hong Kong denied that the group's rallies were subversive or designed to provoke the government. The group is protesting a crackdown in which numerous followers have died in custody, Kan Hung-cheung said.
``If they didn't repress us, there would be no need for us to stand up and tell the truth,'' Kan said Friday. ``As the suppressions were so brutal and inhumane, we have to tell the world.''
Beijing has been alarmed by Falun Gong's ability to stage protests in Tiananmen Square - China's most politically symbolic public monument - despite an 18-month crackdown.
If anything, the group appears to have stepped up protests, which have taken place almost daily on the square in central Beijing where Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.
One of the largest demonstrations, with hundreds of arrests, took place Oct. 1, the 51st anniversary of Mao's declaration. Most involve no more than a dozen protesters who unfurl banners and chant slogans.
The government has responded by stationing busloads of plainclothes and uniformed police in the square almost around the clock. Violence is common, with protesters often bloodied in full view of crowds before being dragged away.
Beijing also lashed out this week at Kan, accusing him in an editorial carried by state-run Xinhua News Agency of ``nciting troubles and creating chaos'' during Jiang Zemin's visit to Macau.
A message posted on New Year's Day on the group's Web site and attributed to sect leader Li condemned such behavior by authorities as ``going beyond the limits of Forbearance,'' one of the group's central principles.
``The way the evil are currently performing shows that they are already utterly inhuman and completely without righteous thoughts,'' the message said. Li, a former government clerk who lives in the United States, has remained silent for long periods during the crackdown.
``Such evil's persecution ... can thus no longer be tolerated,'' the message warned.
China outlawed Falun Gong in July 1999, calling the spiritual movement an evil cult to blame for the deaths of more than 1,500 members. The Communist Party apparently saw the group's size and organization as a threat to its monopoly on power.
Falun Gong attracted tens of millions of followers in the 1990s with its blend of meditative exercises and spiritual teachings.
Rights groups say police have detained as many as 10,000 followers in the crackdown. Most have been held only briefly, but more than 150 organizers have been given prison terms of up to 18 years.
Rights groups say at least 92 sect members have died in police custody, including four last month.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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