"Falun Gong leaders charged"

("BBC", October 31, 1999)

Falun Gong: Labelled a cult and now banned

Four leaders of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China have been charged with violating state security as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on the group. The announcement comes a day after parliament passed legislation designed to eliminate what it described as cults, including Falun Gong.
The BBC's Adam Brookes: ''The defendants are likely to face stiff sentences''
The four, who were already in custody, have been accused of stealing and leaking state secrets, and organising a cult.
They were named by Xinhua News agency as Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu and Yao Jie. All four are believed to have been detained since the government banned Falun Gong in July.
Our correspondent in Beijing, Adam Brookes, says acquittals are rare in this kind of case and the defendants are likely to face stiff prison sentences.
Police question suspected followers in Tiananmen Square Officials say the first trials of more than a dozen people who have been charged with offences relating to their Falun Gong activities could begin as soon as next week.
For the past week, soldiers and police in Beijing have dragged away the group's followers from Tiananmen Square, where they have been protesting against what they say is persecution.
A big surveillance operation is now underway there. The Chinese authorities believe the group poses a threat to internal security.
But its millions of members argue they are merely promoting meditation and exercise.

Cult activity

China first labelled Falun Gong a cult on Thursday, when the official People's Daily newspaper published a blistering attack on the group.
The parliament called for any cult activity to be dealt with rigorously in accordance with the law.
It accused the Falun Gong movement of destroying the normal social order through illegal gatherings, and said it was guilty of rape, theft and actions which had caused the death of followers.
The Chinese authorities began their crackdown on Falun Gong in April after 10,000 of its members staged a protest in Beijing.
In recent days, demonstrators in the capital have been calling for the authorities to treat the movement with more tolerance.
Beijing has drawn a distinction between the leaders, who it says should be punished, and the followers who it calls deceived and in need of education.

"China Opens Way For Death Penalty For Cult Leaders - New Measure Is Aimed at Falun Gong,Which Continues Its Protest in Beijing"

by John Pomfret ("The Washington Post", October 31, 1999)

BEIJING, Oct. 30 - China stepped up its crackdown today against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, which protested in silence for a sixth consecutive day, by passing a law that opens the way for death sentences for group leaders.
Police hauled away several dozen protesters as hundreds of tourists enjoying a bright autumn day on Tiananmen Square looked on. There apparently was no repeat of Thursday's violence when police beat, kicked, bloodied and yanked the hair of several elderly protesters.
By a unanimous vote, the 114-member executive committee of the National People's Congress ruled that leaders of religious cults may be prosecuted for murder and endangering national security--two of China's most serious crimes.
The government characterized Falun Gong as a "cult" on Thursday, asserting that 1,400 people have died as a result of their involvement in the Buddhist-like spiritual movement. The government charges that most those deaths were a result of Falun Gong encouraging its followers to stop going to the doctor -- a charge denied by Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong's leader, who is based in the New York borough of Queens.
"The decision says that courts, prosecutors, police and administrative judicial organs must be on full alert for cult activities and smash them rigorously in accordance with the law," the official New China News Agency reported. In a sign of the government's willingness to impose the harshest possible measures on movement leaders, the news agency mentioned the case of Liu Jiaguo, the leader of a popular group called Principal God in Hunan province. Liu was charged with raping 11 women and executed.
Today's vote marked another step in China's troubled campaign to suppress the Falun Gong movement--which preaches conventional morality and believes its practice is beneficial to the body's qi, or fundamental energy. Thesuppression campaign began on July 22 and has dominated China's state-controlled airwaves and newspapers ever since.
The persistent protests and the fact that thousands of Falun Gong followers have come to Beijing in recent weeks to oppose the ban are signs that thegovernment is having difficulty crushing the movement. More than 3,000 people have been arrested in Beijing in the last month, and the Beijing Morning Post reported today that police discovered 201 Falun Gong practitioners living illegally in rented rooms in the city during a mid-October sweep.
The crackdown's difficulty apparently stems from two sources. First, after 20 years of economic reforms and unprecedented personal freedom, Chinese people are much less easily cowed by government dictates than before. Second, because of widespread corruption and a crisis in its own values, the Communist Party simply isn't as effective as it used to be at smashing organizations such as Falun Gong, especially when they do not appear to challenge the state directly.
In an attempt to convince Communist Party faithful that Falun Gong constitutes a clear and present danger to China's national security, the New China News Agency quoted Chinese legislators as saying the movement's challenge to the party is "unprecedented in the 50-year history of the People's Republic in terms of the size of its organization, its influence, number of illegal publications as well as the damages it brought to the society."


"China bans Falun Gong - Falun Gong: Labelled a cult then banned"

("BBC", October 30, 1999)

The Chinese parliament has passed a law banning the Falun Gong movement and all other cults. China first labelled Falun Gong a cult on Thursday, when the official People's Daily newspaper published a blistering attack on the group.
The BBC's Tony Smith: "The Chinese authorities have arrested thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in the last few months" The parliament called for prosecutors and police to be on full alert for any cult activity, which it said should be dealt with rigorously in accordance with the law.
It accused the Falun Gong movement of destroying the normal social order through illegal gatherings, and said it was guilty of rape, theft and actions which had caused the death of followers.
The Chinese authorities first took action against Falun Gong after 10,000 of its members staged a protest in April.
In recent days, demonstrators in Beijing have been calling for the authorities to treat the movement with more tolerance.
The authorities have drawn a distinction between the leaders, who they say should be punished, and the followers who it calls deceived and in need of education.


"China parliament passes cult law amid protests by members of the Falun Gong"

("Reuters", October 30, 1999)

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China's parliament on Saturday passed a law outlawing cults, but defiant members of the Falung Gong banned spiritual movement, its prime target, continued silent protests in Tiananmen Square.
It left no doubt Falun Gong would be shown no mercy.
The law "calls on courts, prosecutors, police and administrative judicial organs to be on full alert for cult activities and smash them rigorously in accordance with the law," the official Xinhua news agency said.
Members of Falun Gong, outlawed by decree in July, have staged silent protests all week outside the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square where the top committee of the National People's Congress discussed the law before passing it.
On Saturday, police detained several dozen Falun Gong members on the square, most of whom readily confessed their allegiance and walked calmly to waiting police vans.
One man in a bright yellow anorak began practising Falun Gong calisthenic moves but was quickly hauled into a van.
There was no repetition of Friday's events when dozens of protesters sat in the lotus position and remained stoically silent as plainclothed men kicked, beat and dragged them away by the hair, witnesses said.


The law provides the framework for an even harsher crackdown on Falun Gong, which was officially branded a cult on Thursday.
Xinhua said the law differentiated between leaders and followers. "Local governments are asked to take necessary measures to educate those deceived while punishing a small number of cult leaders and those who have committed crimes," it said.
But it gave no details of the penalties for Falun Gong leaders, whose trials are expected to begin soon.
China this week accused 13 Falun Gong leaders of stealing and leaking state secrets. Although state secrets can be almost anything not officially made public, the crime can carry the death sentence.
Early in the week, Falun Gong protesters said they were generally being detained for 24 hours after being picked up in Tiananmen Square, the political heart of China, and released after a lecture on the evils of the movement.
But many immediately returned to the square.
It was unclear how long protesters were being detained later in the week, but Falun Gong members said some had been uncontactable for more than 48 hours.


Falun Gong -- a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and breathing exercises -- claims 100 million members worldwide. Beijing says two million is more accurate.
Adherents deny Falun Gong is a cult, insist it is no threat to the Communist Party, which has 60 million members, and say they are baffled why they should be "persecuted" when they are simply striving to be "good people."
Beijing denies persecuting them, saying China is a country ruled by law. But it says the movement "seduces, brainwashes and blackmails," and vowed to show no mercy.
"Cult organisations that have destroyed normal social orders and stability through illegal gathering, led to the deaths of practitioners and rapes of women and swindled money should be dealt with severely," Xinhua quoted the law as saying.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Falun Gong members have come to Beijing, usually by car to avoid identity checks at railway stations and airports. They stay in safe houses to avoid similar checks at hotels.
In May, more than 10,000 of them suddenly turned up to squat outside the Chinese leadership's Zhongnanhai compound close to Tiananmen Square to demand official recognition for Falun Gong.
That jolted authorities, who began a campaign to vilify the group and arrest its leaders.
Members follow the teachings of their U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, who preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology. Li is fiercely anti-gay.


"Police drag female Falun Gong protesters from Tiananmen Square: Members Allege Persecution in Crackdown"

("CNN", October 30, 1999)

CNN-BEIJING -- Chinese police dragged six middle-aged female Falun Gong protesters out of Tiananmen Square by the hair on Friday as the group continued its protest for the fifth straight day.
The protest came a day after members of the banned meditation movement stepped up their defiance against a government crackdown by appealing for international help.
According to witnesses, police kicked and pulled the women into a waiting minivan. The confrontation was unlike previous days, when protesters stepped into police minivans without resistance. On Friday, the women sat down in the square and clung tightly to each other.
One woman was picked up by her hair and feet and thrown onto a police minivan as a crowd of up to 200 people, including tourists from abroad, watched.
The women remained silent, but police identified them as adherents of the Falun Gong.

Accounts of police brutality

On Thursday, in an extraordinary move, nearly 30 Falun Gong members invited six international journalists to a secretly arranged news conference in suburban Beijing.
Dozens of Falun Gong practitioners gave accounts of persecution and police brutality during the news conference.
An 11-year-old boy said he was expelled from school because he refused to stop practicing Falun Gong.
A 31-year-old hairdresser showed off her wrists, which were still bruised from being handcuffed, with one arm over her shoulder, the other behind her back, in Beijing on October 17.
The hairdresser and another woman described an 11-day hunger strike that left one follower nearly too weak to breathe.
Seven reporters contacted by e-mail about the news conference first met at a restaurant on one side of Beijing. The reporters were then escorted to a suburban hotel by the members. One wall of the conference room held a poster of group founder Li Hongzhi in a saffron robe.

Party vows to crush Falun Gong

China's Communist Party, meanwhile, declared that Falun Gong was a cult and vowed to show no mercy in crushing it.
Falun Gong is a blend of traditional meditation, slow motion exercises, and Buddhist and Taoist ideas. The group has organized more than 300 protests since April 25, when 10,000 members besieged Communist Party headquarters, demanding official status for the group.
China banned the group on July 22, and has arrested dozens of members for trying to mount protests across China since that time.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin recently compared Falun Gong with groups like the Branch Davidians in the United States, and Aum Shinrikyo in Japan. Aum killed 12 people in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. The Davidians' 51-day standoff with the FBI in 1993 ended with the deaths of 81 people.
Practitioners of Falun Gong have said violence is not a part of their philosophy.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne


CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors.

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