"China to try Falun Gong leaders, frees HK members"

("Reuters", November 18, 1999)

HONG KONG, Nov 18 (Reuters) - China is to begin trying about 300 leaders of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement just days after a visit by U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Beijing, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Thursday.
A court in Chongqing city in the western province of Sichuan would try Gu Zhiyi on Sunday, the start of a series of trials across the nation, the Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China said in a statement.
Annan left the country on Wednesday after a visit earlier this week, during which he raised Beijing's crackdown on the movement in talks with government leaders.
Gu, a 63-year-old retired teacher, was charged with ``making use of an evil cult to destroy the enforcement of the law.''
Chinese authorities accused her of commanding several thousand followers to besiege a Chongqing newspaper office in November, and leading about 1,000 adherents to practise Falun Gong in a public square in the city in June.
The centre said Gu was expected to be sentenced to more than 12 years in jail.
It said Chinese authorities had asked all provinces to try to finish trials of Falun Gong members before Beijing resumes control of Macau from Portugal on December 20.
A total of 300 would be tried while an estimated 1,000 Falun Gong adherents were already in labour camps, the Hong Kong human rights group said.
Meanwhile, a local Falun Gong member told Reuters most of the five Hong Kong practitioners who were detained by Chinese police in Beijing on Wednesday had been released and were now returning to Hong Kong, due for arrival later on Thursday.
The five, including a child, were rounded up when they tried to unfurl a Falun Gong banner in Beijing.
Falun Gong, outlawed in China, is legal in the territory which retains a high degree of autonomy.

"Buddha's Children: China Reassures U.N. Chief on Banned Group"

By Erik Eckholm ("The New York Times", November 17, 1999)

BEIJING -- Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said Tuesday that China's foreign minister had given him "a better understanding" of the government's crackdown on the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Annan said he had been assured in his meeting Tuesday with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan that "fundamental rights" are being respected for Falun Gong practitioners, thousands of whom have been jailed or harassed in recent months.


The Chinese government, with the acquiescence of the United Nations, has restricted Annan's availability to the news media during his visit. But he answered questions during a brief session Tuesday with a handful of foreign photographers, television cameramen and one Asian newspaper reporter, who later distributed a transcript of Annan's remarks.
Tuesday morning, shortly before Annan's meeting with Tang, more than a dozen Falun Gong adherents were detained in Tiananmen Square as they unfurled a red banner and began their ritual exercises, which are said to bring good health and spiritual salvation. Groups of believers from at least five regions of China have reportedly sent Annan letters asking for an official inquiry into why China has branded the group an illegal, "evil cult."
Last Friday, before his arrival here on Sunday for a four-day visit to discuss United Nations peacekeeping and other topics, Annan said he planned to make inquiries about the severe crackdown on the movement, which had millions of followers in China before it was banned in July.
But in his brief public remarks today, Annan was clearly loath to offend China -- a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
"I think I leave here with a better understanding of some of the issues involved," he said, adding that Tang had told him "that in dealing with this issue, the fundamental rights of citizens will be respected and some of the actions they are taking are for the protection of individuals."
Seeking to clarify Annan's remarks, a spokesman for the secretary general, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said by telephone Tuesday evening that in the meeting with the foreign minister, Annan had also "impressed upon them the importance of respecting the fundamental rights of those involved."
In that meeting, Annan offered United Nations help in strengthening the government's legal procedures to deal with the Falun Gong problem "in accordance with international norms," Almeida e Silva said. Tang gave no response, he said.
Falun Gong members, whose leader, Li Hongzhi, is in exile in New York, shocked the government in April when some 10,000 of them gathered for an illegal demonstration in Beijing, demanding official recognition. Since banning the group and calling it a dangerous cult, the government has charged dozens of top leaders with serious crimes.
Thousands who have refused to renounce their beliefs have been detained temporarily, threatened with losing their jobs, and in some cases, sentenced to labor camps.
The United States government calls the crackdown "a violation of international human rights standards as set forth in instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that China has signed."
"We have no evidence that practitioners have done anything other than peacefully exercise their internationally recognized rights," an American Embassy spokesman said Tuesday.


"China charges 11 members of banned Falun Gong"

("Reuters", November 17, 1999)

HONG KONG, Nov 17 (Reuters) - China authorities have charged 11 followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement with an array of offences including revealing state secrets, a Hong Kong-based rights group said on Wednesday.
The adherents, rounded up in Jiangsu, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, were charged with crimes such as ``using an evil cult to destroy the law'' and ``revealing state secrets,'' said the Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China.
Last Friday, China jailed four Falun Gong leaders in the southern island province of Hainan for up to 12 years, in the first known trial of members. They were convicted of organising illegal protests.
More than 100 Falun Gong leaders have been formally arrested. Many more members are under various forms of administrative detention, like labour camps, which are not subject to the judicial process.
The government banned Falun Gong in July and has vowed to wipe out what it sees as a threat to communist rule.


"China's 'cybercops' clamp down"

by Kevin Platt ("Christian Science Monitor", November 17, 1999)

Somewhere deep within China's secretive Ministry of State Security, just east of Tiananmen Square, agents are bent over computer screens, monitoring the Web travels of everyone from Chinese dissidents to American diplomats posted here. In the nearby Ministry of Public Security, newly minted software designers at the Computer Surveillance Division track the electronic correspondence of suspected Falun Gong members or would-be hackers, says a Western official who closely tracks China's "cybercops."
Internet use is exploding here, with current estimates of China's "Netizens" ranging from 4 million to 10 million. Some reform-minded leaders see this as an opportunity to transform China into a superpower in the global information-based economy.
But conservatives in the Communist Party and police "argue that ever-greater [Internet] controls are necessary to ensure the state's security," says Ken Farrall, publisher of China Matrix, a Web site on Internet use in China.
State Security agents, who monitor "threats" to party rule posed by antigovernment activists or Western envoys, scored their latest victory on Nov. 9, when they helped convict four leaders of the fledgling China Democracy Party of "attempting to subvert the government." The case against Wu Yilong, who received an 11-year sentence, included "evidence that he used the Internet to publish articles on the China Democracy Party and used e-mail to contact overseas pro-democracy organizations," says Frank Lu, a human rights monitor based in Hong Kong.
Western officials and rights monitors say that during searches of any political suspect's home or office, the first thing Chinese security agents seize these days is the computer.
The Chinese parliament in 1998 amended criminal law to outline a spectrum of computer crimes and to prohibit contact with pro-democracy groups abroad. Together, these rules can mean imprisonment for anyone who sends or receives a single e-mail from one of the thousands of Chinese activists now exiled in the United States.
Mr. Lu, who heads the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, says that surreptitious surveillance of Web surfing and Net communication is helping police track an ever-widening circle of religious, political, and minority activists.
The US State Department's most recent rights report on China says Chinese "authorities often monitor telephone conversations, fax transmissions, electronic mail, and Internet communications of foreign ... diplomats and journalists, as well as Chinese dissidents, activists, and others." It adds, "The government has created special Internet police units to increase control over Internet content and access."
Beijing periodically closes Web bulletin boards or chat rooms if speech becomes political, and it "is now trying to develop a filter system to block antigovernment messages," says the Western official. "The government knows that its control of information is one of its most powerful tools of control over the people."
Mao Wei, who heads the official China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, says, "Internet use is doubling every year ... and China will have one of the world's top three Internet markets within the next five years." Mr. Mao says about 90 percent of Web surfers here are males under 35 years old and are part of the educated elite.
Those characteristics may inspire fear among some party officials that China's Net population is demographically ripe for bucking Communist controls. And there are growing signs that groups as diverse as underground rights activists to the persecuted spiritual movement Falun Gong are turning to the Web to spread their messages.
"The Chinese government was furious and terrified when, in the middle of a nationwide crackdown on Falun Gong last month, the group used e-mail to set up a secret press conference in Beijing to tell the world about police beatings of detained Falun Gong members," says rights activist Lu.
Lu adds that the group had earlier used electronic messages and Web sites to orchestrate the biggest demonstration to hit China in a decade.
Since the April protest, when 10,000 Falun Gong followers surrounded the party's headquarters in Beijing, at least two of the group's Web-savvy promoters have been charged with "using the Internet to spread reactionary propaganda," he says.
In response to stepped-up use of the Internet by China's disaffected, "public security bureaus around the country are being ordered to expand their computer-security divisions," says Lu.
He says that "last year alone, Shanghai's security organs recruited 300 more computer graduates to engage in cyber-surveillance." Adds Mike Jendrzejczyk, who heads the Washington-based office of Human Rights Watch - Asia Division: "Beijing appears to be worried about cyberspace being used to fuel political and worker unrest ... but I frankly doubt that the genie can be put back into the bottle."
Many computer-industry specialists and political activists here say the rapid-fire growth of Net use, along with increasingly sophisticated means of averting police surveillance, will trigger a high-tech game of cat and mouse for the foreseeable future.
One pro-democracy activist brags that "with my high-speed Internet connection and new software, I can send 1 million e-mails throughout China within 10 hours." Richard Long, who regularly sends the pro-democracy VIP Reference into tens of thousands of Chinese e-mail boxes, including those of top party and police officials, says Beijing will never be able to stop the cyber-bombardment.
"The Internet is a revolutionary tool for people's freedom," he says. "China alone can't stop this global trend."


"Banned China Sect Members Protest"

("Associated Press", November 17, 1999)

BEIJING (AP) -- Several members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement staged a brief protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Wednesday before police forced them into a van and drove them away.
Four women, a man and a young child performed slow meditation exercises on the vast square's pavement in the latest act of defiance against the government's four-month campaign to vanquish the group.
Plainclothes and uniformed police quickly detained them. Chinese media and a human rights group reported, meanwhile, that 16 Falun Gong adherents in various cities across the country had been formally arrested on various charges, including disclosing state secrets, incitement to create disorder, organizing illegal gatherings and sales of illegal publications.
Since banning the popular group in July as a threat to society and the regime, the communist government has ordered millions of believers to renounce their beliefs or face arrest. But followers have converged on the capital to appeal, arguing that Falun Gong is not a threat and improves health and morality.
Five suspected Falun Gong members in the northeastern city of Changchun were arrested in the past two weeks, the state-run newspaper Science and Technology Daily reported Wednesday.
Those arrested included Xu Yanquan, who it said headed the movement in Changchun, the hometown of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi and a stronghold for the group. Three others -- Zhang Guoliang, Deng Jin and Lu Yuzhong -- were accused of selling Falun Gong publications, the newspaper said.
Falun Gong is an offshoot of traditional schools of slow-motion exercise. It blends ideas from Buddhism and Taoism with those of its founder, Li Hongzhi, who now lives in the United States.
Falun Gong was practiced openly in public parks and parking lots before the ban. Stung by its inability to wipe out Falun Gong, Chinese leaders intensified their crackdown last month -- ordering new arrests, branding the group ``an evil cult'' and having the Communist Party-dominated legislature revise a law on sects to provide for harsher penalties.

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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