BEIJING - China on Thursday denied a claim by Falun Gong that the group is suing Chinese President Jiang Zemin in a U.S. court, saying the outlawed movement was merely trying to disrupt Jiang's visit this week to the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao accused the spiritual movement of inventing the claim, saying Falun Gong, which boasts thousands of members in the United States, "has a lying character." China's government banned Falun Gong as an "evil cult," and has detained thousands of its members in China.
"It is a trick by Falun Gong to make fabrications and deceive the press," Liu said in answer to a question at a regularly scheduled ministry news conference.
"Falun Gong devotees attempt to use this kind of trick to interfere with the top Chinese leaders and undermine relations with the relevant countries," he said.
News reports on the lawsuit "do not comply with fact," he said.
When asked whether he was denying the lawsuit had been filed and that Jiang's entourage was served with papers he said: "I think your understanding is right."
A lawyer for Falun Gong in the United States said the lawsuit against Jiang was filed Oct. 18. Terri E. Marsh said a notice of the lawsuit was delivered to the Chinese leader's guards at his Chicago hotel on Tuesday.
The lawsuit names Jiang and an office it alleges the Chinese president helped create to carry out "a systemic campaign of persecution, torture, and genocide against Falun Gong."
Marsh said the lawsuit was filed under a law allowing U.S. courts to hear cases against foreigners accused of human rights abuses or violations of international law abroad. She said U.S. District Judge William J. Hibbler in Chicago is handling the suit, which asks for unspecified financial damages and for the federal court in Chicago to prohibit Jiang from committing future abuses.
Court officials in Chicago could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hundreds of Falun Gong supporters have been among groups protesting Jiang's visit.
The group had attracted millions of followers with its mix of slow-motion exercises and teachings drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the doctrines of its founder, a former Chinese government clerk.
Thousands of members have been detained. Most are released after a few weeks, but activists say more than 500 have been killed. Chinese officials deny mistreating anyone, though they say some detainees have died during hunger strikes or from refusing medical attention.
China calls Falun Gong a threat to public safety and communist rule, accusing its teachings of causing some 1,600 deaths by suicide, murder and refusal to accept modern medicine.
BEIJING - China plans to launch a television satellite that can block attempts by Falun Gong protesters to hijack its signals, the state satellite-launching company said Thursday.
The announcement comes a month after Beijing accused Falun Gong supporters abroad of committing a "TV hijacking" by breaking into signals on a satellite that transmits state television to areas throughout China.
The new French-made Apstar VI satellite is to be launched in 2004, said Geng Kun, a spokeswoman for the China Great Wall Industry Corp.
The launch has been planned for some time, but Great Wall added antijamming technology after the Falun Gong incident to prevent further "malicious interruptions," Geng said.
The Sept. 9 break-in on the government's Sino Satellite, or Sinosat, was especially embarrassing for communist authorities because the system was created to increase their control over what Chinese television viewers see.
Foreign channels licensed to be shown in China must use Sinosat, letting Beijing shut down broadcasts that anger communist authorities. But people in the industry say Sinosat's older technology leaves it open to hijacking by protesters.
Chinese authorities say they traced the Sept. 9 broadcasts to nearby Taiwan. Taiwanese authorities promised to investigate, though they said the signal could have come from anywhere within a wide area of the Pacific Ocean.
The new satellite's signal will cover China and Southeast Asia and reach as far as Australia and Hawaii, Geng said.
Falun Gong had several million followers when it was banned in mid-1999 as a threat to communist rule and public safety.
On Wednesday, a lawyer for the group said Falun Gong supporters have sued Chinese President Jiang Zemin in U.S. federal court, accusing him of committing torture and genocide in China's crackdown.
Falun Gong supporters also have broken into local cable television systems in cities across central and eastern China over the past year.
They show videos proclaiming the benefits of the group and protesting the crackdown, in which activists claim that more than 500 people have been killed.
Thousands of Falun Gong followers have been detained. Most are released after a few weeks. Police deny mistreating anyone, though they say some have died from hunger strikes or from refusing medical help.
A court this week upheld sentences of up to 20 years in prison for a group of 15 Falun Gong followers convicted of carrying out a cable television break-in March 5 in China's northeast, according to state media.
Communist officials have denounced the protest videos as "reactionary propaganda" and say they threaten social order. The government calls Falun Gong an "evil cult" and says its teachings prompt followers to commit murder or suicide.
Adherents of the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, plan to follow Chinese President Jiang Zemin's every move during his ongoing tour of the United States, they said.
Members of the group, some of them bleary-eyed after late protests in Chicago where Jiang arrived the day before, got on early flights to Houston, Texas, the next stop on the president's US itinerary.
"We're 20 from Switzerland going from Chicago to Houston," said Aleardo Manieri, waiting for his checked-in luggage in Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. "More will be arriving on other planes."
Jiang has a busy schedule in Texas, and Falungong adherents want him to be constantly reminded of the rough treatment followers of the movement get inside China.
Jiang will attend a banquet hosted by Houston Mayor Lee Brown later Wednesday and will deliver a speech at Texas A and M University Thursday.
On Friday, he will meet US President George W. Bush for a one-hour summit at the US leader's ranch in Crawford, Texas, before heading to a meeting of Asia-Pacific economies in Los Cabos, Mexico.
"We plan to rent cars to go to Crawford to protest," said Magdalena Savic, a Swedish follower of the movement. "After that, some of us will continue to Mexico."
Jiang, 76, hopes his fourth visit to the United States as head of state will become a triumphant show of stable Sino-US ties before his retirement, which is expected soon, but demonstrations have so far marred his trip.
Falungong supporters were standing in silent protest across from Houston's Inter-Continental Hotel, as the Chinese president's motorcade arrived from Ellington Field Airport at noon.
Many of them were holding banners with messages such as "Falungong Practitioners Tortured to Death," reflecting the group's claim that hundreds of followers have died while in Chinese detention.
When Jiang arrived in Chicago Tuesday on the first leg of his tour, hundreds of pro-Falungong and pro-Tibetan demonstrators lined up outside his hotel, some in silent vigil, others loudly voicing their protests.
According to reports, China's three-year-old crackdown on the Falungong, branded as an "evil cult" that drives its members to suicide, is to a large extent a personal vendetta for Jiang.
Even so, the protesters said their actions could help the situation for adherents in China, rather than worsen it, because of the media attention they would get.
"Maybe people in China will see it and understand that the president is lying to them," said Savic, the Swedish adherent who plans to go to Crawford.
The protests planned to accompany Jiang during his visit to the United States have run into a series of logistical hassles.
Adherents said one hotel in Houston had canceled reservations by group members, and suspected Chinese authorities were to blame.
"It's because the Chinese consulate there is quite active," said Lilly Wang, an ethnic Chinese supporter who now lives in Sweden. "They've spread rumors that we're dangerous."
It has also been a problem for the Falungong protesters to find out exactly where to be when, as Jiang's itinerary has only been made public in a gradual, haphazard manner.
"There are constant changes," said Richard Kleinert, a Swiss adherent. "We have to be very flexible."
Meanwhile, Falungong has opened a new front in the battle to get its message across.
Falungong representatives said Wednesday lawyers for the spiritual movement had filed a civil suit against Jiang seeking damages for atrocities committed against the group's adherents in China.
The class action suit, filed October 18, seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for the "widespread torture and genocide" of thousands of Chinese adherents of the movement.
Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in the United States say they are being spied upon and intimidated by Chinese officials in an attempt to foil plans to protest this week's visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
The spying includes high-tech listening devices used to record meetings of Falun Gong members in private homes, they say.
When the meetings end and members return to their own homes, they find parts of private conversations on their telephone answering machines, they say.
"That the Chinese government monitors Falun Gong is not news, but they usually only monitor native Chinese," said Tao Wang, a Germantown engineer and Falun Gong practitioner. "What is new is that they are now spying on Western practitioners.
"Usually when you spy, you do not want the other party to know, but they are taping the meetings and then playing them back. They want us to know we are being watched. The only reasonable explanation is to threaten," he said.
Officials at the Chinese Embassy did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Recent visits by Mr. Jiang to the United States have been dogged by Falun Gong, Tibetan and other human rights activists, who chant anti-China slogans and attempt to interrupt the leader of the world's most populous nation.
Mr. Jiang arrived in the United States yesterday. When his plane landed, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was free of protesters. About 700 people marched in downtown Chicago the day before to raise human rights issues.
Mr. Jiang will visit Chicago and Houston and meet with President Bush at the western White House in Crawford, Texas, on Friday.
Mr. Jiang, who is expected to hand over the reins of the Chinese government soon, hopes to leave the world stage with a successful and unblemished trip to the United States, and the Chinese government is trying to tamp down protests.
The Chinese government released several Tibetan activists from prison in the summer and invited the Dalai Lama's personal representatives to visit China and Tibet last month.
Partly because Tibetans view the moves as an opening in relations, Tibetan leaders have asked their supporters to put the whistles away and stay home during this visit.
But Falun Gong, which was outlawed in China in 1999 as an evil sect, plans to use Mr. Jiang's visit to draw attention to arrests and beatings of its members in China as well as harassment of its members by Chinese officials all over the world.
Karen Hong, who lives in Maryland, made reservations in September and received confirmation numbers for Washington-area Falun Gong members to stay at a hotel in Houston. The hotel is directly across the street from the Inter-Continental Hotel, where Mr. Jiang will be staying.
On Oct. 16, five days before her group was scheduled to arrive, her reservations for 16 rooms were canceled. A total of 50 rooms that were reserved for Falun Gong practitioners were canceled.
The Homestead Village Hotel said it was a simple overbooking problem, and it offered the group rooms at a discount 20 minutes away.
But Falun Gong members accuse the hotel of kowtowing to Chinese government pressure.
"All the big hotels use a computer system. It is impossible to make this kind of mistake," Mr. Wang said. "The Chinese government pressured them to cancel the rooms. They did not want us right across the street."
Mr. Wang also said that the Chinese government is inviting students to form a "welcome group" for Mr. Jiang, who is scheduled to speak at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Students are offered meals, T-shirts, transportation and other incentives to participate. But they also are asked to sign a waiver, which Mr. Wang says forces them to give up their constitutional rights.
"I agree that if any disturbances are caused by me to pay $5,000 as minimal damages for any harm that may result from such disturbances to the group's reputation," says a statement that all welcome group participants must sign. All signers must agree to report any contacts with Falun Gong to welcome group officials.
The document says the purpose of the waiver is to protect the "purity" of the welcome group. The document threatens anyone who violates conditions of the statement with legal action.
In late July, the U.S. House passed two resolutions condemning the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China and the harassment of U.S. members of the group.
BEIJING - A Chinese court upheld prison sentences of four to 20 years for 15 people who hacked into a cable system to broadcast programs protesting the ban on Falun Gong meditation sect, state-controlled media reported Wednesday.
The sentences, passed on Sept. 20, were among the longest imposed in China's campaign to crush the spiritual movement, which once had millions of followers but was banned in 1999 as a threat to communist rule.
Thirteen of the defendants appealed, claiming their actions had not constituted crimes, the Web site of the People's Daily reported. Another man appealed on the grounds that his sentence was too severe, it said.
The Jilin Provincial People's High Court upheld the verdicts on Tuesday after investigating the original convictions for sabotaging broadcasting equipment and breaking anti-cult laws, the Web site said.
The March 5 broadcasts in the Jilin cities of Changchun and Songyuan marked the start of a campaign by Falun Gong to hack into cable television networks and hijack government satellite television broadcasts to show pro-Falun Gong videos.
Thousands of Falun Gong followers have been detained under a relentless government crackdown, and the group says hundreds have died from abuses in detention.
Chinese officials deny killing detainees but say some have died in hunger strikes or from refusing medical help.
BEIJING - Falun Gong supporters have sued Chinese President Jiang Zemin in U.S. federal court, accusing him of committing torture and genocide in China's crackdown on the spiritual movement, a lawyer for the group said Wednesday.
The announcement came on the first day of Jiang's trip to the United States. Lawyer Terri E. Marsh said a notice of the lawsuit was delivered to the Chinese leader's guards at his Chicago hotel.
The lawsuit adds to efforts by Falun Gong to use U.S. courts to punish Chinese officials for the 3-year-old crackdown, in which activists say more than 500 supporters have been killed.
The press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing said it had not heard of the lawsuit and couldn't confirm whether Jiang had received court papers.
Marsh said the lawsuit was filed under a law allowing U.S. courts to hear cases against foreigners accused of human rights abuses or violations of international law abroad.
It asks for unspecified financial damages and for the federal court in Chicago to prohibit Jiang from committing future abuses, she said by telephone from Chicago.
"Jiang Zemin is orchestrating the torture of people who simply embrace the principles of truthfulness, forbearance and compassion," she said, referring to the doctrine espoused by the group's followers.
China banned Falun Gong in mid-1999 as a threat to public safety and communist rule. The group had attracted millions of followers with its mix of slow-motion exercises and teachings drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the doctrines of its founder, a former Chinese government clerk.
Thousands of members have been detained. Most are released after a few weeks, but activists say more than 500 have been killed. Chinese officials deny mistreating anyone, though they say some detainees have died during hunger strikes or from refusing medical attention.
In 2001, a Chinese police official from the central province of Hubei was the target of a US$50 million lawsuit in U.S. federal court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Chinese man who said his mother and brother were killed in the crackdown.
A judge in New York entered a judgment against the official after he failed to contest the lawsuit, but there is no indication the plaintiffs will be able to collect damages.
Chinese authorities call Falun Gong an "evil cult" and blame it for some 1,600 deaths. They say its teachings prompted members to commit murder or suicide or to refuse medication.
Foreign leaders usually cannot be sued in U.S. court for their official acts. However, Marsh said U.S. District Judge William J. Hibbler in Chicago allowed the lawsuit to proceed after lawyers argued that U.S. law removes such immunity for human rights violations.
"We're looking at Jiang Zemin's acts as going beyond the parameters of a head of state," she said.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 18 but kept sealed by the judge until this week to allow the plaintiffs to serve papers on Jiang, Marsh said.
Dharamsala - A group of Falun Gong followers who fled China to escape alleged persecution has arrived in this northern Indian hill town that is Tibetan leader Dalai Lama's base to tell the world their tales of horror.
Susie, one of the Falun Gong members who arrived in this Himachal Pradesh town where the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered, broke down while speaking of Chinese "state terrorism" against followers of the pacifist sect.
She alleged that President Jiang Zemin's administration used torture as a tool to suppress the Falun Gong. She claimed that 375 Falun Gong followers have been tortured to death in China, 1,000 have been forcibly held in mental hospitals and 20,000 have been sent to labour camps.
Another one million, Susie alleged, were facing detention in prison.
Recounting the chilling incidents in Heilongjiang Province of China in June last year when 25 Falun Gong followers were killed in just two days, Susie told IANS here that officials of 43 mental hospitals had persecuted the sect's members, rendering them both physically and mentally invalid.
Aimed at providing peace and stability to society, Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a form of traditional Chinese meditation with its roots in Buddhism. It has about 100 million followers in 60 countries.
A unique technique of meditation, Falun Gong consists of self-improvement through the principles of truth, compassion and tolerance (Zhen-Shan-Ren) and five sets of simple exercises. It was first introduced to the public in 1992 in China.
Prior to July 20, 1999, the Chinese government recognized and supported the Falun Gong practice and even awarded its founder Li Hongzhi, who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the government's attitude changed after an official survey revealed that about 70 million Chinese had become Falun Gong followers -- a number larger than the Communist Party membership.
The Jiang administration then came down on Falun Gong followers with an iron hand. Since then thousands of the sect's followers have alleged torture and persecution.
HONG KONG - Mainland Chinese who went online Thursday to read a Hong Kong newspaper were redirected by hackers to a Web site full of Falun Gong messages, a newspaper spokesman said.
Several mainland readers of Ming Pao online complained about being sent to the Web site run by Falun Gong, which is outlawed in mainland China as an "evil cult."
The newspaper alerted mainland authorities to the hacking, which occurred in local domain servers in China, but the problem was not immediately solved, said Kevin Lau, Mingpao.com's chief operating officer.
Ming Pao, a respected independent daily newspaper, published an online story about the incident and said it suspected Falun Gong was responsible.
"We can't directly do anything about it," Lau said.
But a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Falun Gong said the meditation sect was not responsible for the hacking.
"Just because the users are redirected to the Falun Gong Web site doesn't mean Falun Gong did it," Kan Hung-cheung said.
"We suspect others are trying to frame Falun Gong with these kinds of tricks. In a free and open society, you don't have to resort to these tactics."
Beijing is trying to eradicate Falun Gong in the mainland. Authorities recently jailed 15 people convicted of breaking into a cable television system to air Falun Gong videos in two northeastern cities.
However, Falun Gong followers are free to practice in Hong Kong, which enjoys Western-style civil liberties unheard of in the mainland.
Readers of the Ming Pao Web site in Hong Kong and foreign countries were not redirected to the Falun Gong site, Lau said.
A follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement has been arrested in eastern China on suspicion of planning to hijack cable television broadcasts to show videos protesting Beijing's ban on the group, police and television officials said Monday.
Bank clerk Song Tao was detained on July 19 in Yantai, a city in Shandong province, said Cai Xian, an engineer with the Yantai Television Broadcast Administration.
A spokesman for the Yantai police, who gave only his surname, Jiang, said a Falun Gong follower had been arrested in July on suspicion of planning illicit broadcasts in Yantai and other Shandong cities. He declined to identify the suspect by name.
Neither would say what evidence had been found implicating Song.
Over the last six months, Falun Gong sympathizers have repeatedly broken into local television systems to show videos protesting Beijing's 3-year-old crackdown on the spiritual movement.
Beijing claims the group has also hijacked satellite transmissions using equipment based in Taiwan. Falun Gong is legal and practiced openly in Taiwan and dozens of other countries.
Earlier this month, 15 people convicted of breaking into a cable television system to show Falun Gong videos in two northeastern cities in March were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
China calls Falun Gong an evil cult and has detained thousands of followers. Falun Gong activists abroad say hundreds of supporters have died from abuse in detention.
TAIPEI - Taiwan urged China on Friday to resume stalled dialogue to avoid "miscalculation" over Chinese accusations of satellite interference by Falun Gong followers based in Taiwan.
The Taiwan cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council denied an assertion by its Chinese counterpart that Beijing had informed Taipei about Falun Gong followers hacking into Chinese state satellite television signals from the island three months ago.
The council urged China to seek Taiwan's assistance through a resumption of dialogue between Taipei's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
"Truly, abandoning this short cut is not a wise move," the council said in a statement. It made no mention of Falun Gong.
Beijing angrily suspended dialogue with Taipei in July 1999 after then Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui redefined bilateral ties as "special state to state".
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province, not an independent state, and has vowed to attack the democratic island of 23 million if it formally declares independence.
Beijing said on Tuesday followers of Falun Gong, legal in Taiwan but banned by China in 1999, hijacked Chinese television broadcasts via the state-run SINOSAT satellite twice this month.
China has demanded that Taiwan stop the interference, warning that bilateral ties could suffer. But a Taiwan telecommunications official has dismissed the accusation as "far-fetched".
The council, which formulates policy towards China, urged Beijing to provide the island with accurate information about the accusations "to avoid miscalculation and misunderstanding".
It said Taiwan telecommunications authorities had investigated China's claims, but found nothing illegal.
In a twist, the council accused China of disrupting signals of seven private Taiwan radio stations since last year.
Taiwan and Beijing have been diplomatic and military rivals since they split at the end of a civil war in 1949, but their economies have becoming increasingly intertwined and civilian exchanges have boomed in the past decade.
China banned Falun Gong after 10,000 practitioners besieged Beijing's leadership compound to demand recognition of their faith. The group practises a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism, traditional Chinese exercises and its U.S.-based founder's ideas.
Falun Gong supporters have interfered with media broadcasts in China several times in recent months to air videos of their founder and adherents practising.
Last week, 15 group members were jailed in China for hacking into cable television networks this year.
Taiwan's Bureau of Investigation, responsible for counter-intelligence, sacked one of its agents this month for sending bureau reports on Falun Gong to China via the Internet.
The agent also faces charges of leaking state secrets.
TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - A Taiwan official dismissed Wednesday as "far-fetched" China's accusation that followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group had hacked into state satellite television signals from the island.
Beijing said bilateral ties would suffer if Taipei did not take effective measures to stop transmissions by the group, banned in China as an "evil cult," which it said had disrupted television signals repeatedly since June.
The head of Falun Gong's branch in Taiwan, where the group is legal, said he applauded the satellite hijackings, but did not know who was responsible.
China said Tuesday that Falun Gong members in Taiwan hijacked mainland television broadcasts via the state-run SINOSAT satellite twice this month.
If confirmed, they would be the latest of a string of forays by the group to show pro-Falun Gong videos on Chinese cable and satellite television channels which has prompted sharply tighter media controls.
Lin Ching-chih, an official at Taiwan's Directorate General of Telecommunications, said his office had investigated a mountain in Taipei -- from where Beijing said the signals came -- but found nothing.
"This kind of saying is too far-fetched," said Lin, adding that China had not provided adequate information.
But Zhang Mingqing, spokesman for the Chinese cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Beijing had offered ample evidence and informed Taiwan about the transmissions three months ago.
"They have known about it since the end of June, but until now they have not taken effective measures so these satellite attacks are still happening continually," Zhang told a news conference.
"If they do not take steps, this will of course hurt the feelings of compatriots on both sides and further damage already difficult relations between the two sides," he said.
Zhang and other Chinese officials declined to say where exactly the transmissions came from, what measures they wanted Taipei to take, or which international agreement had been broken.
Taiwan, blocked by Beijing from the United Nations and other international bodies, is not a member the International Telecommunication Union, but agrees to abide by its rules.
"Dealing a blow to the illegal use of radio waves is the unanimous stand of the two sides and will not affect cross-Strait relations," Lin said.
But it was difficult to detect where satellite signals were beamed from and technically the directorate can only analyze downlink signals to determine if there was any interference, he said.
It was impossible to detect the exact source of transmissions, especially if they were beamed from a mobile station, he said.
Personnel and surveillance trucks had been sent to Yangming Mountain in Taipei but had not yet found any suspicious transmission source, he said.
Surveillance would continue round the clock, he added.
Chang Ching-hsi, an economics professor at National Taiwan University and head of Falun Gong's Taiwan branch, denied knowledge of the satellite hijacking.
"I don't know if Taiwan Falun Gong adherents did it, but I cannot prove they did not do it," he said. "There are too many Falun Gong members in Taiwan. More than 100,000."
"But this is a good thing. China has blocked news about Falun Gong for three years and made false accusations and tarnished the image of Falun Gong."
"Television is the most effective way of letting people know the truth. If Falun gong members or others did this, I am very thankful to them," Chang said. Taiwan investigators had not questioned him about the hijackings, he added.
Taiwan's Bureau of Investigation, responsible for counter-intelligence, sacked one of its agents this month for sending bureau reports on Falun Gong to China via the Internet. The agent also faces charges of leaking state secrets.
Taipei and Beijing have been spying on each other since they split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Despite political and military rivalry, their economies have become increasingly intertwined and civilian exchanges have boomed.
Beijing considers the democratic island of 23 million a breakaway province that must be returned to the fold, by force if necessary.
BEIJING (AP) - In their most brazen electronic hacking yet, supporters of the outlawed Falun Gong movement have staged a "TV hijacking" by interrupting transmissions on a satellite system that broadcasts to every corner of China, the government asserted Tuesday night.
Using its official Xinhua News Agency, the government released an extraordinary 1,100-word dispatch about the latest hacking incident, saying it had traced the illegal transmissions over the Sino Satellite, or Sinosat, system to a pirate broadcast operation in Taipei, Taiwan.
"Why do some Falun Gong die-hards dare to blemish modern civilization in such a barefaced manner?" Xinhua said in an accompanying editorial.
Falun Gong has made a practice in recent months of hacking into local TV feeds and broadcasts, often broadcasting pirate transmissions to tout the benefits of the group and persuade the citizenry that Chinese authorities have treated it unfairly. China says such transmissions have "disrupted the public order" and go against international communications standards.
Xinhua said the latest hacking, which it called a "TV hijacking," began Sept. 9 and had affected signals of a service designed to enable remote villages across the country to see broadcasts from China Central Television, or CCTV, the leading government-run network.
The television break-ins have embarrassed the government, which calls the protest videos "reactionary propaganda" and says they threaten social stability. In that spirit, China's national news also dedicated three minutes of its newscast Tuesday night to the latest hacking.
Officials said they were sure the hacking originated in Taiwan, and called upon its government to help track down the culprits.
"We've utilized a wide range of technical means to monitor and analyze the hijacking signals and made an accurate positioning of the hijacking source. Specialists are completely certain," said Liu Lihua, director of the radio bureau of the Ministry of Information Industry.
In Taipei, Taiwan's government did not immediately respond to the accusation.
The commandeering of the satellite signal also interrupted transmission of the China Education TV Station and some provincial-level TV stations, Xinhua said, and in some cases cut off television entirely for viewers in some rural and mountainous areas.
"This seriously damaged the rights and interests of the audience and affected the normal education order of schools and as well as the learning activities of students," Zhang Tianlin, vice president of the education station, was quoted as saying.
The dispatch also blamed Li Hongzhi, the U.S.-based spiritual leader of Falun Gong, which the government outlawed in 1999.
Xinhua quoted Wang Xiuli, a student of Weichang No. 1 Middle School in northern China's Hebei province, as saying she was angered by the disturbance. She uses Sinosat to access televised long-distance education lectures.
An official with the Taiwan Affairs Office, which handles relations with the island's government, said Taiwan authorities must track down and punish the hackers. "The Taiwan side is responsible for stopping the criminal activity immediately," said the official, whom Xinhua did not name.
Though Taiwan operates as a sovereign nation, Beijing considers it part of China and, indeed, referred to the hacking as originating in "Taiwan province."
Last week, 15 people convicted of breaking into a cable television system to show videos protesting China's ban on Falun Gong were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The sentences were among the longest yet imposed in the campaign to crush the spiritual movement, which had millions of followers before it was banned.
The group was convicted in the northeastern city of Changchun of breaking anti-cult laws and damaging broadcasting equipment. The March 5 broadcasts in Changchun and nearby Songyuan marked the start of the hacking campaign.
Thousands of Falun Gong followers have been detained. Most are freed after a few months, though a government official told The Associated Press earlier this year that nearly 1,300 had been sentenced to prison.
Falun Gong activists abroad say hundreds of supporters have been killed in detention. Chinese officials deny killing detainees but say some have died in hunger strikes or from refusing medical help.
Fifteen followers of the outlawed Falungong spiritual movement were sentenced to between four and 20 years in jail for hijacking cable TV networks in two northeastern Chinese cities, state media reported.
The intermediate court of Changchun city, Jilin province, sentenced the 15 following a brief trial which began Wednesday, the Xinhua news agency said.
They were charged with airing pro-Falungong messages to unsuspecting cable TV viewers in March in Changchun and Songyuan, a city about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Changchun.
The report did not identify the convicted.
A court official confirmed to AFP that sentences had been passed in the case, but refused to give more information.
The hefty jail terms come despite the fact that China's criminal law mandates sentences of between three and seven years for breaching broadcasting and public telecom facilities.
Earlier Friday, the China News Service carried an interview from jail with Zhou Runjun, the purported ringleader of the gang, who remained unrepentant.
Although Zhou admitted to the television hijackings she maintained that she did not break the law, it said.
"The law of 'Falun Dafa' is higher than any other laws," Zhou was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Four districts in Changchun city were affected after two trunk cable TV transmission lines were cut off, Xinhua said earlier this week.
In Songyuan city, 16,000 subscribers were affected as regular TV programs were suspended for nearly four hours, the agency said.
Zhou, in her early 50s, was arrested just days after the incident, amid a sweeping crackdown by local police, according to previous reports.
The hijacking of the airwaves in Changchun and Songyuan on the evening of March 5 was a major propaganda coup for the Falungong group, which has been brutally repressed as a cult in China for more than three years.
Falungong, also known as Falun Dafa, mixes traditional Buddhist and Taoist beliefs with mass breathing and meditation exercises.
The group has recently stepped up its campaign for the hearts and minds of the world's most populous country and is using increasingly sophisticated tactics in its information campaign.
Apart from airing their views on Chinese cable TV, they have also been reported to have hijacked the satellite signals of government-run television stations.
Falungong was banned in China in July 1999 and deemed "an evil cult," by the government, which also called the millions of followers of the group the biggest threat to one party communist rule since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
Fifteen adherents of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement went on trial in northeast China accused of hijacking cable TV networks in two cities earlier this year, state media reported.
The 15 appeared in the intermediate court of Changchun, the same city where they aired Falun Gong messages to unsuspecting cable TV viewers in March, the China News Service said.
They also hijacked networks in Songyuan, a city about 150km north of Changchun, according to the news service.
The group included Zhou Runjun, a woman in her early 50s, who was arrested just days after the hijacking, amid a sweeping crackdown by local police, according to previous reports.
The hijacking of the airwaves in Changchun and Songyuan on March 5 was a major propaganda coup for the Falun Gong group, which has been brutally repressed as a cult in China for more than three years.
Falun Gong has recently stepped up its campaign for the hearts and minds of the world's most populous country and is using increasingly sophisticated tactics in its information campaign.
Apart from airing their views on Chinese cable TV, they have also been reported to have hijacked the satellite signals of government-run television stations.
An agent with the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau was discharged yesterday for leaking classified information concerning the Falun Gong spiritual movement to mainland China.
Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan ordered that agent Li Kai-ping be summarily dismissed, describing the leak as a "collaboration with the enemy."
Chen also referred Li's case to prosecutors for a further probe into his criminal liability for allegedly leaking the government secrets.
The Investigation Bureau found in last March that Li used his computer at home to transmit to Beijing information concerning Falun Gong activities both in mainland China and Taiwan. Much of the information was based on the Investigation Bureau's classified reports on the spiritual movement, including backgrounds of its members in Taiwan, officials said.
But the officials did not reveal the identify of the mainland receiver. The Falun Gong spiritual movement, which claims millions of followers worldwide, is banned in mainland China as an "evil cult."
But before being axed, the agent told a hearing by the Justice Ministry's disciplinary committee that he obtained most of the information from the Internet.
He claimed he started gathering the materials at the request of a top government official, who was helping friends on the mainland to find out about Falun Gong.
The friends ¡X businessmen from Taiwan ¡X had often been approached by Falun Gong fund-raisers, and wanted to know whether they were really members of the spiritual group, Li said.
The committee did not accept his defense. Although the Investigation Bureau had only wanted to give the agent a lighter punishment and kept him in the force, the minister thought the breach a serious crime that deserved expulsion.
BEIJING - Members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement hijacked a television signal and broadcast protest videos to areas on the outskirts of Beijing last month, police and television station employees said Thursday.
Falun Gong videos were briefly shown on the nights on Aug. 23 and 27 in Baoding, a city southwest of the Chinese capital, said a woman who answered the phone at a television station there. She wouldn't give her name or any details of the broadcasts.
The programming was seen within at least a 60-mile radius, including the Fangshan district of Beijing, said a television station official in the nearby town of Xushui. He refused to give his name, saying employees had been ordered not to reveal the incident.
There was no immediate explanation of how Falun Gong activists took over the television signal.
Falun Gong supporters have broken into cable television systems in at least four cities this year to show videos protesting the government's 3-year-old crackdown on the group. In June, a state-run satellite television signal was hijacked and briefly displayed messages of support for the group.
The communist government say the broadcasts are proof of what it says is Falun Gong's disruptive, anti-social nature. Yet they also show that determined members are defying the crackdown.
A statement issued by activists abroad said the August broadcasts showed videos documenting support for the group outside China and condemning the crackdown and alleged police abuses. The group says Chinese authorities have killed hundreds of members in detention.
A police officer reached by telephone in Fangshan said several Falun Gong followers suspected of arranging the broadcast have been arrested. He wouldn't give his name or other details.
A man who answered the phone at a state company in Xushui said he saw a few seconds of images showing people standing in front of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi doing the group's slow-motion calisthenics. Traditional Chinese music played in the background.
"Then the screen suddenly turned black and white," said the man, who wouldn't give his name.
China's communist leaders banned Falun Gong in 1999, alarmed by its membership that numbered in the millions and its organizational ability.
The government calls the group an "evil cult" and accuses it of leading followers to their death by suicide or refusing modern medicine. The government has put enormous effort into demonizing the group, especially abroad, where it boasts a large membership and some public support.
Falun Gong promotes a mixture of eastern mysticism, meditation and traditional Chinese exercises, which is says promote health and clean living.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne
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