("Reuters", November 9, 1999)
OTTAWA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Tuesday condemned China's arrest of members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and its repression of freedom of belief.
China banned Falun Gong last July and declared it a cult two weeks ago when it passed legislation threatening jail terms for the movement's leaders.
``We are most disturbed at the repression of freedom of belief and the arrest and detention of so many Falun Gong practitioners,'' said Canadian Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific Raymond Chan in a statement.
Chinese police formally arrested 111 members of Falun Gong on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to stealing state secrets, Beijing announced on Monday.
Chan was commenting on a two-day joint meeting in Beijing this week with Chinese officials to discuss human rights and the repression of freedom of belief.
``Our delegation will raise specific issues related to religious freedoms and basic rights and reports of ill-treatment of Falun Gong adherents,'' said Chan.
Beijing denies persecuting Falun Gong and accuses the movement of brainwashing, threatening social stability and causing more than 1,400 deaths.
China has expanded its crackdown on spiritual movements such as Falun Gong and arrested the leaders of two martial arts groups, according to a Hong Kong human rights group.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said that the Chinese government was well aware of Ottawa's interest in areas such as civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
He said the Canada-China joint committee on human rights meeting in Beijing was to promote Canada's commitment to human rights observance and democratic development in China. ``This committee was established as a key component in our human rights dialogue with China,'' Axworthy said in the release.
This was the fourth such meeting between Canadian and Chinese officials. The committee has six members, including one Nongovernmental Organization (NGO).
The Canada-China meeting is taking place as a seven-member Canadian delegation on religious freedoms, organized by the Canadian Council of Churches, completes a two-week visit to China.
Canadian delegates to the human rights committee will visit Tibet following the Beijing meeting.
("Reuters", November 9, 1999)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An international human rights organization Tuesday called on the international community to pressure China to end its campaign against the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Human Rights Watch said China's crackdown on the group, which the Chinese Communist Party sees as the greatest challenge to its authority in its 50 years of rule, "clearly violated United Nations human rights standards."
China has vowed to wipe out Falun Gong -- a hodgepodge of Buddhism, Taoism and qigong exercise practices -- and has formally arrested 111 members on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to theft of state secrets. Others are being held under various forms of detention, including labor camps, or are undergoing anti-cult education.
"Cloaking this campaign in rhetoric about the 'rule of law' doesn't give any greater legitimacy to China's crackdown on Falun Gong," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division.
The organization urged Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner on human rights, to intervene with highest-level Chinese officials. China outlawed the movement in July and branded it a cult last month.
"The official ban on Falun Gong should be lifted," Jendrzejczyk said in a statement. "The government's announcement that it was a 'true cult' and must be suppressed should be rescinded. All Falun Gong members in detention, formally charged or sentenced to labor camps for peaceful activities should be immediately released."
Falun Gong, which claims millions of followers, says it has no political agenda and poses no threat to communist rule. Its founder, U.S.-based Li Hongzhi, preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology.
Human Rights Watch said China's crackdown on Falun Gong "is part of a broader government effort to try to control all organizations, religious, civil, social or economic."
It said Falun Gong's ability to organize large numbers of people and its use of modern communications like the Internet to stay in touch with members made it "especially threatening" to Beijing.
In April more than 10,000 Falun Gong members sat silently outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound to demand official recognition for their beliefs.
Beijing has said that the group endangers Chinese society. It has charged that Falun Gong has bilked followers and caused more than 1,400 deaths by refusing to allow sick adherents to seek medical treatment.
Falun Gong has denied the charges.
("Reuters", November 9, 1999)
BEIJING, Nov 9, 1999 - China warned the United States on Tuesday of "new difficulties" in their shaky ties unless Washington stopped criticizing Beijing's crackdown on the outlawed Falungong spiritual movement.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue demanded the United States "correct its erroneous" decision to grant political asylum to a Falungong adherent in New York. She did not identify the practitioner.
She accused Washington of practicing "double standards" and attacking China "for no reason at all".
Sino-U.S. ties have been strained in recent years over a host of disputes, including Taiwan, Tibet, human rights abuses and trade. In May, ties plunged to their lowest ebb in decades over the NATO bombing of Beijing's embassy in Belgrade.
Zhang said China was "indignant and resolutely opposed" to the decision to grant asylum to the Falungong practitioner, a move she said was an intervention in China's internal affairs.
China has made representations with the United States on the asylum issue, the spokeswoman said.
She denied allegations China was persecuting practitioners, saying most were being "educated" on the evils of Falungong and only a minority was being punished in accordance with the law for plotting and inciting others to cause trouble.
FALUNGONG SEEN AS DANGER TO STABILITY
Zhang said Falungong was a cult that endangered society and the crackdown was designed to "maintain social stability".
The Communist Party sees Falungong, outlawed in July and branded a cult last month, as the gravest challenge to its authority in its 50 years of rule.
The group, which claims millions of followers, first shocked the government in April when more than 10,000 members emerged from nowhere to sit silently outside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing to demand official status for their faith.
China has vowed to wipe out Falungong - a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and qiqong, which is designed to harness inner energy and heal - accusing it of challenging Communist rule.
Falungong says it is apolitical and poses no threat to communist rule. Its U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology.
Chinese police have formally arrested 111 Falungong members on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to stealing state secrets.
Those arrested since the movement was outlawed in July did not include others held under various forms of detention, including labor camps, or undergoing anti-cult education.
A Hong Kong-based human rights group said last week at least six Falungong members had died in custody since August, one from a hunger strike, one who was beaten to death and four who committed suicide.
The government has given the names of three women members who died in custody, but denied maltreatment.
Authorities say Falungong has bilked followers and caused more than 1,400 deaths by refusing to allow sick adherents to seek medical treatment.
by Paul Eckert Reuters, November 9, 1999)
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have formally arrested 111 members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to stealing state secrets, a cabinet spokesman said Monday.
Those formally arrested did not include others held under various forms of detention, including labor camps, or undergoing anti-Falun Gong education, said Li Bing, deputy head of the information office of the State Council, or cabinet.
Li told a small group of foreign reporters he had been told by police that numbers had not been compiled on a nationwide basis on how many Falun Gong members were under other forms of detention.
The majority of Falun Gong practitioners who gathered in Beijing in recent weeks to protest against a new anti-cult law were "not arrested, but were picked up, given re-education and sent back to their hometowns," Li said.
China outlawed the movement in July and detained some leaders, declared it a cult last month and passed legislation promising jail for its leaders.
Li denied reports that some Falun Gong followers were beaten and had died at the hands of police.
"There have been no cases of beatings or inhumane treatment in the handling and education of Falun Gong followers," he said.
"There have been no deaths of followers during the administration of legal procedures," he said.
CHARGES INCLUDE STEALING STATE SECRETS
Li, reading from police reports, gave the names of three women Falun Gong members who had died since their apprehension for sect activities.
Zhao Jinghua and Li Riuhua had previous heart conditions and died of heart failure, he said. Zhao, of Shandong province, had collapsed during questioning and died in the lavatory. Li, of Chongqing, had died in hospital, he said.
Chen Ying, an 18-year-old high school student, died after jumping from a train while being sent back to her hometown in Heilongjiang province in the company of local officials, Li said.
He said the charges against those formally arrested included stealing state secrets -- which could bring the death sentence -- using a cult to obstruct the law, disturbing social order and illegal business practices.
China has vowed to wipe out Falun Gong -- a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and qiqong, which is designed to harness inner energy and heal -- accusing it of challenging Communist Party rule.
SECT BLAMED FOR AT LEAST 1,400 DEATHS
Authorities say Falun Gong had brainwashed and bilked followers and had caused more than 1,400 deaths by refusing to allow followers to get medical treatment.
"Some of the victims were seriously ill and wanted to go to hospital, but fellow Falun Gong members blocked them, in some cases surrounding their houses," Li said.
Beijing has also branded Falun Gong a threat to social and political stability. The group stunned China's leadership on April 25, when more than 10,000 members surrounded emerged from nowhere to sit silently outside the leadership's Zhongnanhai compound to demand official recognition of their faith.
Falun Gong denies it is a cult and says it poses no threat to the 60 million-strong Communist Party. Adherents follow U.S.-based Li Hongzhi, who preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology.
Li estimated that more than 1,000 sect members had converged on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in recent weeks as parliament deliberated the anti-cult legislation. Most were from nearby provinces and as many as 60 percent returned to Beijing even after being sent home, he said.
by Elisabeth Rosenthal ("New York Times", November 9, 1999)
EIJING -- Chinese officials Monday offered the first official tally of the government crackdown on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, saying 111 people had been formally arrested on a variety of criminal charges, from disrupting state security to stealing state secrets.
But that figure does not include the much larger number of Falun Gong members who face other forms of detention, ranging from re-education programs to labor camps. The police have not yet compiled nationwide statistics on those, the officials said.
The vast majority of those detained in Beijing in the last two weeks were not arrested, said Li Bing, a spokesman for China's cabinet, who spoke to a small number of foreign journalists at a news conference. "We just took them to a place for education and returned them to their homes."
Li said that perhaps 1,000 group members had converged on Beijing in recent weeks to show their support for Falun Gong, although a representative from his office later called reporters to emphasize that this was only an estimate.
It is difficult to estimate the size of the group, because more than half of those who were sent home quickly returned to Beijing, perhaps inflating the head count, said Qian Xiaoqian, another official.
The officials denied reports that any members had been beaten to death while under arrest or in detention. They said that a handful had died while in custody, but that they had either committed suicide or died of natural causes.
"There have been no beatings or inhumane treatment," Li said.
Almost daily for the last two weeks, small groups of Falun Gong members from out of town have been detained after sitting and sometimes meditating in small acts of silent protest in Tiananmen Square. A few said they had planned to deliver petitions to the government legislators who were meeting nearby, but apparently they did not succeed.
The popular movement, which blends traditional exercises with Buddhism and Taoism as well as a dash of mystical beliefs, was banned in July and has since been the subject of an extensive vilification campaign in the state-controlled media, at state-owned companies and on university campuses.
The country's top leaders, who rarely speak out directly on policy issues, have branded Falun Gong "an evil sect," using apocalyptic metaphors.
"The Falun Gong problem is not a simple one," said President Jiang Zemin, quoted in a new book, "Falun Gong and Cults."
"We must not underestimate it," he said, "and even more so, should not be gullible. If this problem is not swiftly solved, it will become a major social disaster."
The Chinese press and human rights groups outside China have reported a succession of formal arrests in the last week, ever since the government approved new laws dealing with cult activity.
While some of those arrested, like a former police official, Li Chang, were known to be leaders of the group, others were more obscure. Zhang Ji, a student in Heilongjiang Province in the northeast, was arrested for "spreading information about Falun Gong through the Internet," said the Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy in China, a Hong Kong human rights group.
Falun Gong members in China originally relied heavily on the Internet to organize events and to keep in touch with practitioners overseas, but the group's Web sites are now blocked in China.
The group said it had millions of members in China before the ban. It is not clear how many remain, although some followers are still deeply committed. Many adherents said the exercises had restored their health and given them spiritual peace at a time when many Chinese feel left behind by the country's economic transformation.
But the government says 1,400 people have died as a result of the anti-scientific bent of Falun Gong, which it said had prevented members from seeking medical treatment. "They have been sick and not gone for treatment," Li said. "Their families have asked us to intercede."
He said at least one of the people who died while under police supervision, Li Ruihua, 47, had a previous heart problem that had been left untreated.
Li said another follower, Chen Ying, 18, had committed suicide by jumping from a train while being escorted back to her hometown in Heilongjiang by officials from that area.
A third follower, Zhao Jinghua, also had a previous heart problem and died of a heart attack during her "education" period near her home in the eastern province of Shandong, Li said.
The officials did not say how many followers were still being "educated" or how long the process lasted, saying that it was generally left in the hands of officials in the followers' hometowns.
("BBC", November 8, 1999)
BBC--The Chinese authorities have been cracking down on the Falun Gong
The Chinese authorities say they have so far brought criminal charges against 111 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.
The BBC's Adam Brookes: ''Practitioners who refuse to renounce their beliefs have become outcasts'' The government has also acknowledged that several of the group's followers have died in custody.
Apart from those charged, many others have been detained and sent for re-education or sentenced without trial to labour camps.
Li Bing, of the State Council information office, said the charges against those formally arrested included stealing state secrets - which could bring the death sentence - using a cult to obstruct the law, disturbing social order and illegal business practices.
A follower prays after being arrested in Bejing He said police had not compiled numbers to show how many Falun Gong members were under other forms of detention.
A BBC correspondent in Beijing, Adam Brookes, says those who have been charged are almost certain to be found guilty and face prison sentences or time in a labour camp.
China declared Falun Gong a cult last month and passed legislation promising jail for its leaders.
The organisation, which boasted millions of followers in China before the crackdown, blends exercises with ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism.
But the ruling Communist Party has been alarmed by its rapid growth, its international links and its keenness on demonstrations.
Human rights workers in Hong Kong say a student from Heilongjiang was charged on Monday for "using the Internet to spread subversive information".
They said Zhang Ji, 20, could receive up to five years imprisonment after sending information from Falun Gong websites through cyberspace to the United States and Canada.
Deaths in custody
Under Chinese law, suspects can be detained without formal charge for weeks, and only those formally charged are considered arrested.
Practitioners rounded up during the recent peaceful protests in Beijing "were not arrested, but were picked up, given re-education and sent back to their home towns", Mr Li said.
Police question suspected followers He denied reports that some followers had been beaten up and had died at the hands of police.
But he said three women had died since their apprehension - two from heart failure due to previous conditions.
The third, an 18-year-old high school student, died after jumping from a train while being accompanied home by local officials, he said.
But human rights workers in Hong Kong say the teenager was beaten to death by police. They say at least five other Falun Gong members have died in custody since August - four have committed suicide and one has died on hunger strike.
Beijing has branded Falun Gong a threat to social and political stability.
China's leadership was stunned when 10,000 members descended on Tiananmen Square in April to stage a silent protest demanding official recognition of their faith.
Mr Li estimated that more than 1,000 sect members from different provinces had converged on the square in recent weeks while parliament deliberated the anti-cult legislation.
As many as 60% had returned to Beijing even after being picked up by police and sent home.
Our correspondent says practitioners who refuse to renounce their beliefs have become outcasts, often losing their homes and jobs. Thousands appear to have chosen to become fugitives, living rough or in safe houses.
by Chris Michaud ("Reuters", November 8, 1999)
NEW YORK, Nov 8 (Reuters) - New York-based practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which has been officially banned in China, screened a video on Monday to counter what they called China's ``vicious'' campaign against the movement.
Falun Gong was once lauded by the Chinese government for helping to reduce health care costs in China. It was banned in July as a threat to social and political instability; it claims over 100 million adherents worldwide to its mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and qiqong.
``For reasons best known to itself ... Beijing ... has vowed to crush us,'' said Gail Rachlin, a U.S. practitioner of Falun Gong and a public relations executive, adding that Falun Gong was the fastest growing spiritual movement in the world. Citing what she called ``a vicious, one-sided media propaganda campaign'' against Falun Gong, Rachlin said practitioners in the New York area -- white, Chinese, black and Hispanic -- had made the 30-minute video, ``Falun Gong: The Real Story,'' ``to fill the information gap.''
The video, which features the group's founder, Li Hongzhi, and well as interviews with practitioners of the philosophy in Washington, New York and San Francisco, will be shown at colleges and universities and on local television stations. It has been distributed to each member of Congress, Rachlin said.
Chinese authorities said Falun Gong brainwashed followers and caused more than 1,400 deaths by refusing to allow followers to get medical treatment. Falun Gong denies it is a cult and says it poses no threat to the 60 million-strong Communist Party.
Its three main tenets are truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, augmented by an exercise regimen that draws on traditional Chinese methods such as tai chi. Rachlin said more than 60 percent of its 130 million practitioners are over 50 years old.
A measure of the schism between China's statements about the movement and those of its adherents was seen in a report by an official newspaper in the northeastern province of Jilin, which said seven practitioners were sent without trial to labour camps for one year for disturbing social order.
Practitioners at the New York screening said 500 people had been sent to labour camps without trials.
People interviewed in the video rejected China's branding Falun Gong a cult, saying that it was not even a religion, with no official organisation, no services, no donations and no politics. Its two books, they noted, are given away free.
("Australian Broadcasting Corporation News", November 8, 1999)
Authorities in China are pressing ahead with efforts to crush the spiritual movement Falun Gong, with the first in a series of show trials due to start this week.
Four people charged with illegally organising Falun Gong activities are facing several years in jail.
The trial in southern Hainan province is the first test of anti-cult laws drawn up only last weekend by China's law-makers in the National Peoples Congress.
If, as widely predicted, the four will be found guilty, they face a minimum five to seven years in jail.
Human rights groups in Hong Kong say dozens more Falun Gong practitioners are in jail awaiting trial, as the Chinese Government carries out its latest crackdown against the group it says is a dangerous and evil cult that deceives its followers.
The Government's latest efforts prompted hundreds of practitioners to risk arrest in the past week by protesting in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
("Associated Press", November 8, 1999)
BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese police arrested 111 Falun Gong members on charges of using the banned spiritual group to disturb social order, conduct illegal business activities and steal state secrets, a government spokesman said Monday.
At least two other followers died in custody, said Li Bing, spokesman for the State Council, China's Cabinet. But neither had died at the hands of authorities, he said.
Li's account was the most authoritative statement on how many Falun Gong members have been arrested, but still did not convey the scope of the crackdown on the group.
Chinese law allows suspects to be detained for weeks without charges, and only those charged are considered arrested. An unknown number of Falun Gong practitioners also have been sentenced without trial to time in labor camps.
In recent weeks, authorities have rounded up more than 1,000 people who came to Beijing to protest the state's tightening its ban on the group.
Detainees were lectured on the supposed evils of Falun Gong, and then sent to their home provinces, Li said.
More than 60 percent of those detained and sent home later came back to the capital, State Council spokesman Qian Xiaoqian said.
Falun Gong blends slow-motion exercises with ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism. Wary of the group's tight organization, popularity and ability to mobilize protests, Chinese leaders banned Falun Gong in July, and declared it an evil cult last month.
Authorities last month monitored Internet traffic about planned protests, and used the information to detain dozens of people, said the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.
On Monday, authorities charged a college student with e-mailing information to Falun Gong Web sites in the United States and Canada, and with downloading news about the group and sharing it in China, the center said.
Zhang Ji, from northeast Heilongjiang province, could get up to five years in prison for ``disseminating reactionary documents via the Internet,'' the center said.
Two Falun Gong practitioners had died while under official supervision, Li said. Zhao Jinhua, who was accused of taking part in the group's activities in September, suffered a heart attack Oct. 7 in eastern Shandong province. And 18-year-old student Chen Ying jumped from a train car's bathroom window while being escorted from Beijing to her hometown of Jiamusi, in Heilongjiang.
Falun Gong members have accused the government of causing Chen's and Zhao's deaths through mistreatment. In Zhao's case, group members and the center said she was beaten to death by police, who then tried to intimidate the family into silence.
Li denied the claims, saying Zhao had no internal injuries, broken bones or bleeding.
China also accused the United States of interfering in its crackdown against the spiritual movement by granting asylum to an unnamed practitioner, an apparent reference to the group's founder, Li Hongzhi.
In protests to the U.S. government, China has ``voiced its strong indignation and firm opposition'' to the political protection given ``a Chinese Falun Gong practitioner,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said in comments carried late Monday by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Zhang defended the communist government's 3 1/2-month ban against Falun Gong, arguing the crackdown was done according to law and with the intention of protecting the human rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens.
("Reuters", November 7, 1999)
BEIJING, Nov 7 (Reuters) - A university teacher and a senior provincial official in charge of personnel are among the latest members of China's outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement to be rounded up in a crackdown, state radio reported on Sunday.
The college lecturer in southern Guangxi province was fired from his job, expelled from the Communist Party and arrested on criminal charges after refusing to abandon his beliefs and practices despite a warning, the radio said.
In northern Hebei province, a provincial official is being investigated along with several other people for allegedly stealing an internal official document on the Falun Gong and posting in on the Internet. Four people were detained in the southern island province of Hainan for organising a Falun Gong protest of 183 people in a park in the provincial capital Haikou in August, the radio report said.
Elsewhere, a Falun Gong member in northeast Heilongjiang province faces charges after spreading unspecified rumours on the Internet, the radio said.
China's Communist authorities have made clear they view the Falun Gong as an unprecedented challenge to their rule.
The movement mixes calisthenics with Buddhism and Taoism, laced with end-of-the-world warnings by its U.S.-based founder Li Hongzhi. It has burrowed its way into China's government, the military, its academic institutions and even into the ranks of the Communist Party.
Members use the Internet to organise themselves and attract support.
Last month the movement was declared a sect, and parliament passed new legisalation mandating harsher penalties for sect members.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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