"Chinese university students warned about Falun Gong"

(Kyodo News Service, November 11, 1999)

BEIJING, Nov. 11 (Kyodo) - China has taken its propaganda campaign against the banned Falun Gong meditation movement into universities, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
A series of academic discussions and public lectures trying to analyze the root causes of what China now terms a cult have been held at Beijing's universities during the past few days, the report said.
After attending the sessions, students and teachers are able to distinguish between religions, described by a Beijing professor as tolerant, and cults, which he described as ''dangerously aggressive,'' the report said.
As China's government continues to use the state-controlled media to convince the populace Falun Gong is evil, an editorial in the People's Daily on Thursday called for isolation and punishment of the group's leaders.
It warned, however, against discriminating against deceived ''countrymen and comrades'' who have left Falun Gong after realizing the dangerous political motive of its founder, Li Hongzhi.
The propaganda campaign against Falun Gong should be continued unremittingly, the editorial said.
A standing committee meeting of the National People's Congress last month called for stepping up a crackdown on the group, which claims to have attracted a worldwide membership of 100 million through its mix of Chinese breathing exercises and Taoist and Buddhist philosophies.


"China says treat Falun Gong members compassionately"

("Reuters", November 11, 1999)

BEIJING, Nov 11 (Reuters) - China, under fire from international human rights groups for its harsh crackdown on the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, said on Thursday authorities should treat rank and file adherents with compassion.
``Especially when handling contradictions among the people, we must be particular about style and method, avoid being rough, simplistic and rude,'' the People's Daily said in a front-page commentary.
A Hong Kong-based human rights group has said at least six Falun Gong 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 named three women members who died in custody, but denied maltreatment. One was a suicide and the other two died of natural causes, it said.
One Western diplomat said the People's Daily commentary reflected government worries about ``political campaigns getting out of hand'' as they did in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
The Communist Party newspaper said authorities should ``care about, support and be understanding'' when educating ordinary Falun Gong practitioners about the ``evils'' of the movement.
But the commentary said ``our hands should not be soft when resolutely dealing a blow'' to its leaders.
The government declared Falun Gong a cult last month and vowed to wipe it out.
It has blamed Falun Gong for the deaths of about 1,400 practitioners who fell ill but refused medical treatment. Falun Gong mixes Buddhist and Taoist beliefs with meditation and breathing exercises designed to harness inner energy and heal.
More than 100 Falun Gong members have been formally arrested and are expected to face trial. Many more are under various forms of administrative detention, like labour camps, which do not require a judicial process.
Falun Gong's U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, says the movement is apolitical and poses no threat to Communist rule.
The group first stunned Chinese authorities in April when more than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners appeared outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound to demand official recognition.
The Falun Gong claims 100 million members worldwide, but Beijing says two million is a more accurate figure.
The group has burrowed its way into the ranks of the Communist Party, the government, academic institutions and the military.
It has also attracted support from the most vulnerable sections of society, including the unemployed, the elderly and the sick.

"111 Falun Gong Members Arrested"

by John Leicester ("Associated Press", November 11, 1999)

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese police have formally arrested 111 Falun Gong members in their 3rd month crackdown against the banned spiritual group, and at least two other followers died while in custody, a government spokesman said today. Authorities in Beijing rounded up more than 1,000 followers who streamed into the capital from other provinces in recent weeks to protest a tightening of the government's ban, said Li Bing, spokesman for the State Council, China's Cabinet.
Those followers were subjected to lectures about the supposed evils of Falun Gong -- a process the communist government calls education -- and most were then sent to their home provinces, Li said. A few, however, have refused to say where they are from, he added. In an admission of the difficulties the government has experienced in intimidating believers, another State Council spokesman, Qian Xiaoqian, said more than 60 percent of those rounded up and sent home later came back to the capital.
Li's account is the government's most authoritative statement on the numbers placed under arrest, and yet it does not convey the sweep of the crackdown. Under Chinese law, suspects may be detained without formal charges for weeks, and only those formally charged are considered arrested. An unknown number of practitioners also have been sentenced without trial to labor camps.
Authorities monitored Falun Gong practioners' Internet traffic about planned protests last month and used the information to detain dozens of people, said a Hong Kong-based rights group, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.
Today, authorities also charged a college student accused of e-mailing information to Falun Gong Web sites in the United States and Canada and of downloading news about the group and sharing it with practitioners in China, the center said.
Zhang Ji, from northeast Heilongjiang province, could get three to five years in prison for "disseminating reactionary documents via the Internet,'' the group said.
Falun Gong blends slow-motion exercises with ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism. Scared by the group's high-degree of organization, its popularity and its ability to mobilize followers in protests, Chinese leaders banned the group in July and declared it an evil cult last month.
The 111 formally arrested as of last Thursday face charges of using a cult to obstruct law enforcement, gathering illegally to disturb social order, conducting illegal business activities and stealing state secrets, Li said.
Li said there had been deaths of Falun Gong practitioners while they were under official supervision, but claimed they did not die at the hands of the authorities.
Zhao Jinhua, accused of taking part in Falun Gong activities in September in defiance of the ban, suffered a heart attack on Oct. 7 in eastern Shandong province, he said.
An 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, according to Li.
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 Zhao was beaten to death by police, who then tried to intimidate the family into keeping silent about the death.
Li denied the claims, saying Zhao had no internal injuries, broken bones or bleeding. Her family had opposed her practicing Falun Gong and concurred she did not die from a beating, he said.
He also acknowledged the death of a third follower: Li Ruihua, 47, from the southwestern city of Chongqing, who died of heart problems after coming to Beijing.
Li said no followers died while being educated during the "implementation of legal measures.'' He also said no followers rounded up in Beijing were beaten or mistreated.


"Foreign journalists protest ``harassment'' in China"

("Reuters", November 10, 1999)

BEIJING, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China issued a protest on Wednesday against what it called official ``intimidation and harassment'' linked to coverage of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
``Our members have been followed, detained, interrogated and threatened,'' said a letter sent to the Foreign Ministry and the cabinet spokesman.
Problems largely stem from a secret news conference on October 28 by members of the outlawed Falun Gong, which mixes calisthenics with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.
The Foreign Ministry and security forces maintain that foreign journalists who covered the event had engaged in ``illegal reporting.''
Journalists from a number of news organisations, including Reuters, the New York Times and the Associated Press, were questioned at length by police, obliged to sign a confession of wrongdoing and had their work and residence papers temporarily confiscated.
Several of those reporters are now under heavy police surveillance.
``We find this worrisome and unacceptable,'' the letter said.
``Such harassment is completely out of line with international practice,'' it said. ``It impedes our legitimate journalistic work and violates the private lives of our members and their families.''


The letter complained of interference with television satellite transmissions -- which must be routed through China Central Television -- and delays in shipping video tapes.
It argued that foreign journalists had a duty to report on all sides of the Falun Gong story.
The government has declared that the Falun Gong is a cult, and blames it for the deaths of 1,400 practitioners. It accuses the United States of hypocrisy and double-standards by criticising a harsh crackdown on the group.
More than 100 Falun Gong members have been arrested and many more are under various forms of administrative detention.
Falun Gong's U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, denies accusations by Beijing that his group seeks to overthrow the government. He says the movement is apolitical.
The news conference, held in the middle of the nationwide crackdown, appears to have embarrassed security forces, already under pressure for failing to head off a protest by more than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound in April.
Security forces routinely tail foreign correspondents in Beijing, and television satellite transmissions are blocked from time to time. Much of this is connected to coverage of China's pro-democracy movement.
But authorities seem to be more sensitive about foreign coverage of the Falun Gong, which they view as the biggest threat to Communist rule in 50 years, than even reporting on the banned China Democracy Party.
The Falun Gong boasts 100 million members worldwide, but Beijing says two million is a more accurate figure.
The group has burrowed its way into the ranks of the Communist Party, the government, academic institutions and the military. It has also attracted support from the most vulnerable sections of society, including the unemployed, the elderly and the sick.


"Falun Gong applies to metropolitan gov't for NPO status"

("Kyodo News Service", November 10, 1999)

TOKYO, Nov. 10 (Kyodo) - China's outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement has applied to the Tokyo metropolitan government for a nonprofit organization status, metropolitan government officials said Wednesday.
The metropolitan government has accepted the request made Tuesday and will decide by early March whether to grant such a status to the group, the officials said.
The spiritual group told the metropolitan government it would like to set up an office in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, according to the officials.
Masaaki Tsuruzono, a Japanese representative of Falun Gong practitioners in Japan, said, ''I would like to assure everyone that Falun Gong is not a 'false religious group,' as the Chinese government claims, by acquiring a corporate organization status.''
Chinese authorities earlier this month heralded an intensified crackdown on Falun Gong, a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and qigong breathing techniques.
The group claims a global membership of 100 million.

"Three die, 1100 held in Falun Gong crackdown"

by Lynne O'Donnell, Beijing ("The Australian", November 10, 1999)

CHINESE authorities have arrested more than 100 Falun Gong followers since launching a crackdown aimed at destroying the movement.
A senior government official said three people among the more than 1000 other adherents of the outlawed group who have been detained since the crackdown began in July have died in police custody. He said those who had died had not been mistreated.
Detained followers had been subjected to lectures on the evils of the movement and then sent back to their home towns outside the capital, said Li Bing, a spokesman for the State Council, or cabinet.
"There have been no cases of beatings or inhumane treatment in the handling and education of Falun Gong followers," Mr Li said.
"There have been no deaths of followers during the administration of legal procedures."
Charges, ranging from obstructing law enforcement to holding illegal gatherings and stealing state secrets, have been laid against Falun Gong adherents.
The figure Mr Li provided for arrests did not include people held in various other forms of detention, including those undergoing anti-cult education or sentenced to the administrative punishment of "re-education through labour", which does not require a formal trial and can last up to three years.
A human rights group, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, has reported that hundreds of people are being sent to labour camps without trial for following the teachings of the Falun Gong.
Authorities have stepped up their surveillance of the Internet in order to prevent followers communicating with each other, either inside China or overseas.
In what is believed to be the first arrest of a Falun Gong follower directly linked to the Internet, Zhang Ji, a student from north-eastern China, has been arrested and charged with "using the Internet to spread subversive information", the centre said.
Mr Zhang had used the Internet to report on the fate of Falun Gong adherents in Heilongjiang province to sect members in Canada and the US, it said.
He was arrested last month and is expected to be jailed for up to five years.


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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