A Chinese official said Wednesday the ongoing crackdown on the outlawed Falungong spiritual sect will be a long-term and complicated "struggle," and said every day Falungong followers were protesting on Tiananmen Square.
The unnamed "senior" official, in an interview carried by Xinhua news agency, also revealed that on April 5 police on Tiananmen Square prevented a Falungong follower named Li from detonating explosives strapped to his body.
Exiled Falungong leader "Li Hongzhi and his ilk refuse to taste defeat and continue to cause disturbances and riots," the official said.
As of March 25, 91 Falungong-related cases involving 99 people had been heard by Chinese courts resulting in prison sentences for 84 of the defendants, the official said.
Since the group was outlawed last July "Falungong members have been causing trouble on and around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing nearly every day, under orders from cult leader Li Hongzhi," he said.
The Falungong group first came to world attention when some 10,000 followers gathered around the Communist Party headquarters of Zhongnanhai last April 25 and protested the pending ban.
Now the Falungong practioners have also "linked up with anti-China forces" abroad, the official said, and have advocated democracy, freedom of religion and human rights in China at international meetings.
"These acts and more have clearly indicated that Li Hongzhi and his Falungong organization have publicly given themselves up to the anti-China forces and actively served as their anti-China tool," he said.
"The struggle (against the Falungong) from today onwards will be a long-term, sharp and complicated struggle," he said.
He reiterated the governments position that the group was directly responsible for over 1,500 deaths, "more than the number killed by the Ugandan 'Ten Commandments of God' cult," he said.
The Chinese government has branded the Falungong group a cult like Japan's Aum Shinryko, known for their sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway and the American Branch Davidians, which stockpiled weapons and perished in a stand off with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to government publications, of the 1,500 people who died at least 1,218 died from "refusing medical treatment" for such terminal illness as heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, renal failure and strokes, while at least 144 committed suicide and 600 had mental problems.
The government estimated that there were up to two million followers of the group before it was banned, making the incidence of suicide and mental illness relatively normal, analysts said.
The group claims 100 million followers world wide and some 80 million in China.
CHINA has banned members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement from sitting university entrance exams, as it shifts its crackdown to the sect's younger practitioners.
An Education Ministry spokesman said under the new guidelines each school would decide whether any of its students would be ineligible to sit the nationwide exams because of their connections with the banned group.
State-controlled media reported that the existing system of assessing university entrance applicants to determine their ``political thought and morality'' would be expanded to determine whether they were Falun Gong practitioners.
``Practitioners who have still not repented are generally not permitted to register their names,'' the China Education Daily reported.
The new guidelines will apply to all high school students now registering to sit the entrance exams in July.
Mainland armed police, meanwhile, were gearing up for ``unexpected events'' as the spring anniversaries of the April 25 1999 Falun Gong protests and the June 4 1989 crushing of the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests approached.
``The armed police's capacity to deal with unexpected events while fulfilling their regular duties has been greatly enhanced,'' Xinhua News Agency reported.
The People's Armed Police had set up a comprehensive computerised ``combat command system'' in Beijing which is linked to ``tens of thousands'' of duty posts nationwide, the report said.
``Armoured cars, multi-functional refuelling trucks, field water-supply vehicles, and other kinds of equipment have also helped enhance the combat capability of the armed police,'' it said.
Beijing yesterday also sent a warning to overseas practitioners that it would severely punish all protesters from overseas.
``When foreigners come to China, they must observe and obey Chinese laws,'' a spokesman of the State Council said in an interview with the China-backed Wen Wei Po. The official lashed out at overseas human-rights watchdogs and Tibetan movement organisations, charging them with sponsoring the outlawed spiritual movement.
He accused group founder Li Hongzhi as having ``engaged in a plot with foreign anti-China forces''.
In another development, China has replaced the head of the nation's sports administration, Wu Shaozu, in a long-awaited move apparently linked to his support for spiritual exercise groups, such as the Falun Gong.
Official sources have maintained that Mr Wu tried to intervene on behalf of the groups before they were banned last year.
GENEVA (AP) - The United States failed Tuesday in its latest bid to have China's human rights record censured by the United Nations, but Cuba, Iran and Iraq found themselves under scrutiny.
The 53-nation commission voted 22-18 for a ``no action'' motion proposed by Beijing to block discussion of a U.S. resolution critical of the human rights situation in China. Twelve nations abstained and one was absent.
Developing countries, many from Africa and Asia, rallied to Beijing's cause as they did in eight previous years. But the United States insisted it succeeded in drawing attention to China's record and said the margin of the vote was the narrowest in five years.
``It pokes a hole in the aura of immunity that only China has enjoyed and conveys a sense that all nations have to look to the commission before they confront their own people,'' U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Harold Koh said.
China applauded the U.N. decision. Attempts by the United States to censure it ``can lead nowhere but self-isolation and self-defeat,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said in remarks carried by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
``The human rights situation in China is the best ever in the country's history,'' Sun said.
The vote came after weeks of intense lobbying by both sides. The U.S. text protested increased restrictions on Tibetans and the ``harsh crackdown'' on political opposition. It noted repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Xiao Qiang, executive director of Human Rights in China, said he was ``terribly disappointed'' and added that the European Union's failure to lend strong backing to the U.S. efforts had been a key factor.
Meanwhile, the U.N. panel censured Cuba for the second consecutive year, voting 21-18 to criticize it for ``the continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.'' Fourteen members abstained.
Cuba accused Washington of being the driving force behind the action. Ambassador Carlos Amat said U.S. officials ``once again wielded the strings of their occasional puppets,'' referring to the Czech Republic and Poland, which proposed the motion.
In another narrow vote, the commission kept Iran under scrutiny for human rights abuses, even though it accepted that progress had been made. The resolution passed 22-20, with 11 abstentions.
Delegates had less sympathy for neighboring Iraq, which they condemned for its ``all-pervasive repression and oppression.'' No nation supported Baghdad, although 21 abstained.
They agreed without a vote to condemn ``the continuing pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar,'' also known as Burma, and expressed concern over abuses in Sudan.
With opposition only from Russia, the commission attacked Yugoslavia's repression of the media and the political opposition, arbitrary administration of justice and discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities.
Beijing: China has banned members of the Falungong spiritual movement from sitting university entrance exams, as it shifts its crackdown to the sect's younger practitioners, state media reported today.
Assessments of university entrance applicants to determine their 'political thought and morality' have been expanded to determine whether they are members of the banned group, the China Education Daily reported.
'Practitioners who have still not repented are generally not permitted to register their names,' it said.
The new guidelines will apply to all high school students now registering to sit the entrance exams in July.
Falungong has mostly attracted the middle-aged and elderly with its eclectic mix of traditional qigong breathing exercises and Buddhist and Daoist philosophy, but also has a number of the young and well-educated among its claimed 80 million membership in China.
China on Monday charged overseas practitioners with leading 'anti-China forces' in spreading discrediting rumours about the government crackdown of the group, which began with its banning in July.
Police detained about 200 Falungong members in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last Thursday as authorities wait nervously for the anniversary of the group's mass demonstration in the capital on April 25 last year.
Washington, April 18 -- In an embarrassing defeat for the Clinton administration, the principal United Nations body on human rights voted in Geneva today not to act on a United States resolution criticizing China's human rights record.
The vote came after the State Department released one of its most withering annual reports on human rights in China and after Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, made a rushed overnight trip to Geneva from India last month to make an impassioned speech to the group, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It was the first appearance by a secretary of state before the body, officials have said.
The commission voted 22 to 18 to back a Chinese motion for no action on the United States-sponsored resolution; 12 nations abstained. In effect, the vote prevented discussion on the substance of the resolution.
The State Department made an extra effort this year to have China's human rights practices condemned in what has become an annual test of Washington's desire to criticize Beijing. The resolution also failed last year, but the United States committed less lobbying power then.
By announcing its intention in January to sponsor a critical resolution, much earlier than usual, the administration signaled to Congress that it was paying as much attention to rights abuses in China as to Beijing's desired entry into the World Trade Organization.
At the White House today, a spokesman for the National Security Council, P. J. Crowley, said the administration was disappointed. He noted that the vote today was closer -- a difference of four votes compared with five last year.
In Geneva, the assistant secretary for human rights, Harold H. Koh, who led the lobbying campaign among delegates, tried to put a positive face on the vote. "The basic message we sent to the Chinese was that the United States will stand up for the Chinese people," he said.
In contrast, the senior Chinese official at the vote today, Qiao Zonghuai, denounced the resolution as "an anti-China political farce directed by the United States alone."
The State Department's human rights report this year described China's "poor human rights record" as having "deteriorated markedly" throughout 1999 and specifically referred to actions against Falun Gong, the spiritual movement whose top leaders were sentenced to long terms in prison in December.
The report also cited Beijing's "extremely limited tolerance of public dissent aimed at the government, fear of unrest and the limited scope or inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms."
The resolution itself rebuked China for "severe measures taken to restrict the peaceful activities" of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and the Falun Gong.
The Beijing government takes the 53-member United Nations human rights body seriously and has worked hard in the last several years to thwart Washington's efforts to criticize its record in such a public forum.
In assessing the defeat for the administration, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth, applauded the State Department's efforts but said they were not adequately backed by the White House. "This never became a White House issue," Mr. Roth said.
In response, an administration official said the national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, had brought the issue up with counterparts in other countries.
In reviewing the vote, Mr. Roth said it was clear that among countries that abstained there were at least seven that could have been persuaded, with a White House campaign, to vote in favor of the United States. Among those he cited were South Korea, Rwanda, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile.
Four votes needed to be changed from abstentions into votes against the Chinese motion for a substantive discussion of the United State resolution to move ahead.
A tie would have allowed discussions at the commission to proceed.
In preparing for the vote, the State Department was publicly upbeat. Mr. Koh told reporters last month that Washington had the "best chance since 1995" to defeat the Chinese motion to block discussion.
Mr. Koh commended Dr. Albright at the time, saying that she was "more committed to the issues of democracy, human rights and labor than anyone I've known." He added, "She is the leader of our team, and she is in charge of putting forward and advancing our entire commission agenda."
But behind the scenes, the State Department had a fairly difficult task. Its prime goal was to persuade the European Union to sponsor the resolution with Washington, to put up a more united front against the Chinese and to encourage smaller countries to stand up to the concerted efforts of Beijing to block the resolution.
According to a State Department official's account of Washington's efforts to build unity within the European Union, France and Belgium remained holdouts.
"The European Union adopted a sub-optimal approach -- that they would vote with us on the no-action but wouldn't co-sponsor," the official said.
Today the European Union was against the Chinese motion to block discussion.
But the official acknowledged that leaders of those European Union countries in favor of co-sponsoring the resolution, including Britain, did not go out of their way to lobby other countries for sponsorship.
"The European Union's commitments on these human rights issues are concerned with how their relationship plays with Beijing," the official said.
In its efforts to get co-sponsorship, the United States encountered a recently developed tactic of the Beijing government in which China offers countries "dialogue not confrontation." Under this rubric, China holds closed-door meetings with governments who say they are concerned about Beijing's rights record.
Australia and Canada are among those that conduct such a dialogue with China. Neither co-sponsored the United States resolution.
The United States also held a human rights dialogue with the Chinese in 1999 but the Chinese canceled the dialogue for 2000 -- a visit by Chinese officials to meet with administration officials -- after the bombing of their Belgrade embassy in the Kosovo war.
In 1998, the year of the summit meeting between the Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, and President Clinton, Washington did not submit a resolution to the human rights commission, saying there were improvements in the record.
In 1995, the United States succeeded for the only time in defeating the Chinese government's procedural vote to block discussion.
Those countries voting with China were Bangladesh, Bhutan, Botswana, Burundi, Congo, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Venezuela and Zambia.
Those voting with the United States were Britain, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Spain and Swaziland.
The countries that abstained were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Liberia, Mauritius, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia.
The Romanian delegate walked out.
GENEVA (Reuters) - China scored a diplomatic victory on Tuesday when the main U.N. human rights body voted not to act on a U.S. resolution denouncing Beijing's rights record.
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted 22-to-18 with 12 abstentions to back China's motion for no action. China was supported by Cuba and Russia as well as India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Those nations that opposed the motion on the U.S. resolution, which denounced allegations of political and religious repression in China, included Canada, Japan and seven European Union members (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain).
Delegates applauded after the Nepalese chairman of the Geneva talks announced the result. It nearly mirrored last year's vote of 22-to-17 with 14 abstentions.
China's ambassador Qiao Zonghuai presented the motion and denounced the resolution as ``an anti-China political farce directed by the United States alone.''
In other votes, the commission adopted a resolution denouncing political repression in Cuba, and it endorsed a motion that rebuked authorities for repressing political opponents and the media in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
European Union resolutions on alleged violations in Iraq and Myanmar also were adopted. Debate continued on motions on Iran and Sudan.
China, supported strongly by developing countries, has escaped U.N. scrutiny on human rights each year since protesters were killed in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
The U.S. delegation found some optimism in the outcome, despite defeat.
``The gap by which the no-action motion passed narrowed once again this year,'' read a statement by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Harold Hongju Koh. ``A growing number of countries now recognize that China should not be permitted to escape scrutiny of its human rights record and that China should not prevent the Commission from fulfilling its mandate.''
In Geneva this week seeking support for the resolution, Koh said some U.S. goals were met.
``We sponsored the China resolution as part of our principled, purposeful policy of engagement with China. Our goals were to speak up for the Chinese people and to focus international attention on the marked deterioration in the human rights situation in China during the past year.
Koh, who serves as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, accused China of having intensified its crackdown on organized political dissent.
Beijing had also initiated a ``full-scale campaign'' to suppress the Falun Gong spiritual movement, banned last July, he added.
``Chinese authorities have also intensified controls on unregistered churches and ethnic minorities, especially Tibetans and Uighurs. In addition, the government also tightened controls on the media, academia and the Internet,'' he said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the commission vote ``represents a sorry failure of political will.''
BEIJING yesterday accused the leader of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group of being a ``pawn of anti-Chinese forces'' seeking to condemn the country's human rights record during a United Nations meeting under way in Geneva.
And Hong Kong, American and Australian Falun Gong practitioners were said to be leading the ``anti-China forces'' in spreading bad rumours about the crackdown, while a Hong Kong rights monitor was also ``slapped''.
The accusations came in a commentary from Xinhua New Agency.
On the Falun Gong chief, Xinhua declared: ``From a sect leader who once said he could `control all people and the whole human race', Li Hongzhi has now been reduced to a pawn of the international anti-China forces. This may be the tragedy of Li Hongzhi and his ilk.''
The commentary slammed Falun Gong practitioners and their websites for supporting a United States-backed resolution to condemn China's record on rights at the UN's Human Rights Commission meeting.
The crackdown on the group was not ``a violation of human rights'' or a ``suppression of religious freedom'' but the lawful banning of an evil sect and an illegal organisation, according to Xinhua.
It repeated the government case against the group: that some 1,500 died and 600 became mentally ill from following Falun Gong teachings.
According to government publications, of the 1,500 who died, at least 1,218 refused medical treatment for such terminal illness as heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, renal failure and strokes, while at least 144 committed suicide.
The government estimated that there were up to 2 million followers of the group before it was banned last July, making the incidence of suicide and mental illness relatively normal, analysts said.
The group has claimed 100 million followers world wide and some 80 million in China.
Li Hongzhi has advocated daily breathing and meditation exercises and advocates clean living in accordance with Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. He has become an exile in the US.
Besides Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong and elsewhere being slammed for spreading rumours, the SAR-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, dissidents like Wei Jingsheng, and the exiled Tibetan government were equally trying to defame the the government before today's crucial UN vote on the resolution, it was said.
``Incidents of the past several months show that Li Hongzhi and his ilk had political ambitions and tried to confront the Chinese government,'' Xinhua claimed. ``Now they have given them up to the anti-China forces and have become tools of anti-China activists.''
BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) - Anti-China forces in the U.S. government are using the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement as a tool to sabotage stability in China, state media said on Monday.
Xinhua news agency made the assertion in a lengthy commentary on the eve of a U.N. vote which could lead to Beijing being censured for suppression of religious and other freedoms.
It said Beijing had largely wiped out the spiritual group almost a year after its members carried out a massive demonstration which shocked the Communist Party and led to a ban of the movement.
But Li Hongzhi, the group's Chinese founder who lives in exile in the United States, had since ``sold his soul'' to members of the U.S. Congress and the Clinton administration who want to bring China to its knees, Xinhua said.
``In the anti-China proposal to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Li Hongzhi and his cult have become a new tool for anti-China elements in the United States,'' it said.
``Even in possession of the masters to which they have sold their souls, they will turn out to be worthless,'' it said.
Member states of the U.N. commission in Geneva are expected to hold a procedural vote on Tuesday which, if defeated, would allow a debate on a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning China's 1999 human rights record.
Beijing has been lobbying hard to win Tuesday's no-action vote and thereby defeat the resolution, which lists suppression of Falun Gong as one component of deteriorating human rights in China.
Beijing has defeated every U.S. attempt to censure it at the U.N. Commission since Beijing ordered troops to open fire on student-led protestors in 1989.
SABOTAGING POLITICAL STABILITY
Falun Gong, which claims millions of followers, entails meditation exercises and Chinese mysticism. Li preaches that those who practice the exercises and read his book will find salvation from an amoral world corrupted by science.
More than 10,000 members surrounded the party's leadership compound on April 25 last year in a peaceful demonstration to demand official recognition and to persuade top leaders to incorporate Falun Gong doctrine in governance.
China calls Falun Gong an evil cult which bilks its followers. It blames the movement for more than 1,500 deaths by suicide and by refusal of some adherents to take medicine.
The Xinhua commentary painted Li and his disciples as hypocrites who abandoned pledges never to seek refuge with political forces abroad.
``To prolong their existence, they shifted their strategy and tried to seek some political forces which hoped to use them to sabotage China's social and political stability,'' it said.
The commentary acknowledged a demonstration last week by more than 100 Falun Gong members in Tiananmen Square, but said most followers have quit the movement since it was outlawed last July.
``All of their schemes failed and the majority of Falun Gong practitioners who had been deceived into believing saw through the evil essence of Li and broke away from the organisation,'' it said.
BEIJING (AP) - A banned Chinese meditation group is appealing to the U.N. Human Rights Commission to condemn a Chinese government crackdown and the detention of 600 members, a rights group said Sunday.
Zhong Gong was banned in January, expanding a campaign against religious groups that began with a ban in July on the better-known group Falun Gong.
``This is serious human rights persecution,'' said the group's letter to the U.N. commission, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission, meeting in Geneva, is to vote Tuesday on a resolution criticizing China.
Chinese authorities have seized $95 million and some 3,000 businesses belonging to the 400,000-member Zhong Gong, the center said in a statement faxed to reporters.
About 600 Zhong Gong members have been held since October, and 25 of its leaders formally arrested, according to Amnesty International, another human rights group. The founder of Zhong Gong is reported to be in hiding.
Both Zhong Gong and Falun Gong are variants of qigong, traditional Chinese exercise and meditation forms meant to promote health and spiritual harmony. Millions of Chinese practice styles of qigong.
China's communist leaders are trying to crush quasi-religious sects, fortunetelling, folk religions and other beliefs deemed superstitious. These traditions continue in rural China despite 50 years of rule by the officially atheist Communist Party.
Also Sunday, police beat and detained a Falun Gong member on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, where security is tight after several protests by sect members.
Police had stopped the woman, in her 20s, and found a Falun Gong banner in her shoulder bag. A reporter saw officers kick and punch her as she was pushed into a van and driven away.
BEIJING, April 16 (Reuters) - Followers of China's banned Zhong Gong meditation group urged the United Nations on Sunday to censure Beijing over its crackdown on the spiritual movement.
The group said in a statement Beijing had illegally confiscated 810 million yuan ($98 million) of its assets, and deprived 400,000 workers and their relatives of livelihoods by closing more than 3,000 of the group's businesses.
Authorities had also detained nearly 600 Zhong Gong followers, including a member of the Beijing People's Congress, the city assembly, the statement said.
Zhong Gong, which claims to have more than 10 million followers in China, practises ``Qigong,'' a traditional Chinese system of deep breathing exercises or meditation.
Authorities began targeting the group, which is similar to China's banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, last October, declaring it an illegal cult.
Spokesmen for Falun Gong, which claims to have between 70 million and 100 million adherents, accuse China of arresting more than 35,000 people since the Communist Party banned the movement last July. Falun Gong too was labelled an illegal cult in October.
More than 200 defiant Falun Gong members protested in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday to urge the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to censure China for its human rights record, according to a Hong Kong-based rights group.
The U.N. Commission, meeting in Geneva, is due to vote on a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning China's human rights record on April 18.
The resolution accuses China of violating basic freedoms and urges Beijing to release political prisoners and permit all religious groups to worship.
BEIJING, April 13 -- The Chinese police broke up a demonstration today in Tiananmen Square by adherents of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement that the authorities banned last year.
Security remained tight on the square late today as the police prepared for a potential resurgence of protests by the group on the first anniversary of a mass demonstration that prompted the government's crackdown. The protests also appeared timed to draw the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which is holding its annual meeting in Geneva. The commission is to vote Tuesday on a motion criticizing China.
Shortly after 10 this morning, at least 50 Falun Gong followers in six separate groups simultaneously raised red and yellow banners emblazoned with the movement's yellow swastika, representing the Falun, or law wheel, that proponents believe spins ceaselessly in their abdomens. Police officers waded into the groups, kicking and punching the demonstrators and shoving them into police vans that are kept parked on the square, according to Agence France-Presse.
Falun Gong rose to prominence on April 25 last year when more than 10,000 followers converged on China's walled leadership compound in central Beijing to petition the government for official recognition. The movement, which was founded in 1993 by a former government clerk who now lives in the United States, Li Hongzhi, said at the time that it had 100 million followers.
Members gathered daily in parks and plazas across China to study Mr. Li's writings and perform hypnotic, yogalike exercises. Even the government estimated the number of followers at more than 20 million.
But the demonstration backfired, scaring the Communist Party leaders, who had previously been careful not to allow the formation of any mass organization that could challenge their hold on power. The government banned the group and started a virulent anti-Falun Gong propaganda campaign.
Falun Gong leaders were arrested, some were sentenced to up to 18 years in prison, and thousands of followers were detained or harassed. At least three followers died in police custody.
The crackdown drove most followers underground, though others persisted in sporadic protests in Tiananmen Square through the rest of last year.
Meanwhile, the government's ban extended to at least one other spiritual group that, like Falun Gong, is based on ancient Chinese breathing exercises aimed at channeling the body's vital energy for various ends, including the development of supernatural powers.
The Falun Gong's momentum has slowed this year with few public protests. Mr. Li has not been seen in public since last July. And the government's propaganda campaign has largely abated. Mention of Falun Gong now elicits a laugh among many people, while committed followers continue to practice the discipline quietly in their homes.
But a report issued by the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement today suggested more followers might be detained in the coming days. The report cited an unnamed Falun Gong follower as saying that Chinese authorities this week started a nationwide campaign to suppress the movement and prevent large-scale protests on the anniversary of the April 25 demonstration.
The report quoted the follower as saying that "followers have decided that it would be more meaningful to suffer while spreading the Law, rather than be taken from their homes."
The Chinese police have detained at least 100 members of the banned Falun Gong movement for staging a series of coordinated protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square - China's symbolic political heart. Eyewitnesses said six groups of demonstrators - many of them middle-aged women - briefly raised banners before being kicked, punched and pushed into vans by plainclothed and uniformed police.
The police subsequently stepped up patrols in Tiananmen Square, searching the crowds of tourists, confiscating film from cameras and checking identity cards.
A spokeswoman for the Falun Gong movement in New York said she believed the activists were responding to reports of a heightened campaign against the movement ahead of the first anniversary of its protest outside government headquarters.
Falun Gong members have been arrested in previous protests
Nearly 90 minutes later scattered protests were still going on, with at least four more banners raised by groups of between five and 10 people.
At least five van loads of protesters were rounded up and driven off.
But the protests continued with at least two groups raising banners again inside the police cars.
A year ago, about 10,000 Falun Gong members stood in silence around the government compound in Beijing to protest criticism of the group by the state press.
Communist leaders, alarmed by the size and intensity of its following, banned Falun Gong.
Founded by a former government clerk, the group was said by officials at one point to have about 70 million members.
The Chinese government says the group is an evil cult that led to the death of followers and caused great harm to society.
The government ban on the movement "actually protected China's human rights", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said on Thursday.
The Beijing police and the Ministry of Public Security said they did not know anything about the protest.
BEIJING, April 13 (AFP) - The Chinese authorities have hacked into Falungong websites causing them to crash as part of a new crackdown on the banned movement, US-based group members told AFP on Thursday.
Starting on Tuesday at least five Falungong web sites, three in the United States and two in Canada, were attacked simultaneously with an overload of carefully-prepared information, said group spokeswoman Gail Rachlin.
Falungong practioner Yuan Li, a computer expert, said the group's main website www.Falundafa.org. received an anonymous tip off on April 12 warning of an imminent attack.
"We received an annoymous e-mail from a Chinese computer employee on April 12 warning us that the police software security bureau had offered to pay the computer company money to hack into our sites," said Yuan.
He said the messages were sent to the Falungong's websites from China using US-based e-mail site Yahoo.com.
"They used a method called ICMT Packet flooding which is a way of overloading websites with too much information," said Yuan.
"This type of computer hacking requires a lot of effort and preparation.
They must have been studying our sites for a long time."
He said the sites were previously attacked by the Chinese authorities on August 5, and that it took 24 hours to get them back up and running.
At Thursday 0430 GMT, it was impossible to access the group's main US website www.Falundafa.org., however other Falungong sites were up and running.
It was not immediately possible to obtain any reaction from the Chinese authorities.
News of the alleged hacking attack came as the Falungong movement staged a series of coordinated protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday which were violently broken up by police.
Five van loads of protesters, many of them middle-aged women, were rounded up and police could be seen arresting a steady stream of people around the square.
An AFP correspondent estimated more than 100 people were detained.
China banned the group in July last year, labelling it an "evil cult", and has since detained tens of thousands of practioners and sentenced alleged core leaders to long jail terms.
The movement preaches clean living and combines physical exercise with spiritual beliefs which it claims can cure illnesses without the need for a doctor. The group claims 100 million adherents worldwide.
(Associated Press, April 13, 2000)
BEIJING (AP) - At least 200 members of the banned Falun Gong group were arrested today during a protest of official efforts to destroy the meditation movement, a human rights group said.
Protesters in and around Tiananmen Square unfurled Falun Gong banners, and police quickly arrested them, beating some, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
Reporters near the square saw police pushing people into two vans and driving them away.
Spokesman for Beijing police and the Ministry of Public Security said they did not know anything about the protest.
The Falun Gong members were protesting official efforts to prevent them from marking the first anniversary of a demonstration that led to a crackdown on the group, the Information Center said.
On April 25 a year ago, about 10,000 members stood silently around the Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing to protest criticism of the group by the state press.
Communist leaders, alarmed by the size and intensity of its following, banned Falun Gong. The group, founded by a former government clerk, was said by officials at one point to have 70 million members.
The government says Falun Gong is an evil cult that led to the death of 1,400 followers and caused great harm to society. The ban ``actually protected China's human rights,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said today.
Thousands of Falun Gong members have been detained, but many still meet in secret, and periodically gather in Beijing for protests. Tiananmen Square is an especially important site as the symbolic political heart of China.
Today's protest also called for the U.N. Human Rights Commission to look into conditions for the group in China, the Information Center said. The commission is to vote Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland, on a motion criticizing China.
BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) - Defiant members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group protested in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday to urge the United Nations to censure China on its human rights record, a Hong Kong-based rights group said.
Chinese police detained more than 200 Falun Gong members, at least 60 of whom raised banners, at various points on and around the square early in the morning, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement.
Some protesters were beaten as they were taken away, it said.
An hour later there were no signs of a disturbance, but hundreds of plainclothes and uniformed police patrolled the vast plaza, questioning visitors and checking identification.
Several police vans and cars moved slowly among the crowds.
The Falun Gong adherents wanted to protest against a brutal government crackdown on the group, to show their determination to defend their movement, and to attract the attention of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva, the Centre said.
Adherents said authorities had escalated their campaign this month ahead of the first anniversary of a demonstration on April 25 last year, when 10,000 Falun Gong members gathered outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound, the Centre reported.
China banned Falun Gong, which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism and meditation, after members demanded official recognition for their faith in a series of protests. In October the government declared it an illegal cult.
But the group has defied the crackdown and kept up sporadic protests for almost an entire year.
MORE PROTESTS EXPECTED
Spokesmen for Falun Gong, which claims between 70 million and 100 million adherents, have accused China of arresting more than 35,000 people since the Communist Party banned the movement last July.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi declined to comment on the reported protest, but said Falun Gong had caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people.
``The Chinese government's legal ban on Falun Gong is precisely to protect human rights to a greater extent,'' he told a news conference.
``Our actions are to punish according to the law a small number of people who intentionally organise cults, and anti-social, anti-scientific, and anti-human extremists.''
The Centre said hundreds more Falun Gong members were expected to demonstrate in the runup to the U.N. Commission's vote on a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning China's human rights record on April 18.
The resolution accuses China of violating basic freedoms and urges Beijing to release political prisoners and permit all religious groups to worship.
Last month, hundreds of Falun Gong followers meditated in silent protest outside the U.N. building in Geneva to urge the main U.N. human rights forum to take action.
CHINA LIKELY TO RALLY VOTES
At least 5,000 members have been sent to labour camps without trial and others have been sentenced to up to 18 years in prison after ``show trials,'' according to Gail Rachlin, a U.S.-based spokeswoman.
Last month, police detained at least two dozen suspected Falun Gong followers, some of whom unfurled banners on the square near the Great Hall of the People where the National People's Congress -- China's parliament -- was beginning its annual session.
Beijing denies it represses political and religious groups, and is expected to marshal enough votes in Geneva to prevent any serious debate on its record, diplomats say.
GENEVA, April 11 (Kyodo) - The United States on Tuesday submitted a censure resolution against China with the U.N. Human Rights Commission, alleging widespread human rights abuses in China, a U.N. official said.
The U.N. commission, which is holding a six-week annual session in Geneva, has set next Tuesday for a vote on the U.S. motion.
China, which has thwarted U.S. censure efforts in previous years at the U.N.
forum, has said it will put forward its own motion that the U.N. commission takes no action on the U.S. proposal.
The U.S. proposal criticizes Chinese authorities for taking ''severe measures'' against adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which was banned in China last July.
The U.S. motion also accuses China of stepping up a crackdown on religious freedom in Tibet as well perpetuating other human rights abuses.
GENEVA, April 11 (Reuters) - The United States tabled a resolution at a U.N.
forum on Tuesday denouncing political and religious repression in China, U.S. diplomats said.
The text, obtained by Reuters, rebukes China for violating basic freedoms and urges Beijing to release political prisoners and permit all religious groups to worship.
The United States presented the resolution at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which is holding its annual six-week session in Geneva to examine abuses worldwide.
Voting is set for April 18.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called in a speech in Geneva last month for the forum to adopt the motion.
The four-page resolution expresses concern at ``severe restrictions'' on Chinese citizens' freedoms of non-violent assembly, association, expression, conscience and religion.
It voices unease at the ``harsh crackdown during the past year on members of the China Democracy Party'' and on ``increased restrictions on the exercise of cultural, religious and other freedoms of Tibetans.''
It also rebukes China for ``severe measures taken to restrict the peaceful activities'' of Buddhists, Moslems, Christians and adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement banned last July.
China, which has wide support among developing countries at the 53-member forum, has escaped scrutiny every year since the killings of protestors in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
Eager to avoid international censure, China has said the U.S. resolution is doomed to fail. It has announced it will table its own motion to take no action on the U.S. text.
Beijing's delegation has been lobbying hard to marshal support for its motion, whose adoption would quash all substantive debate on the U.S. text, Western diplomats say.
Albright said in March: ``We owe it to the Chinese people and to the credibility of this Commission and its members not to shy away from the whole truth, or to hide behind procedural motions.''
Jaime Gama, foreign minister of EU president Portugal, has said the EU is committed to dialogue with China on human rights.
But he expressed concern over China's use of the death penalty, restrictions on fundamental freedoms, harsh sentences imposed on political dissidents and persecution of religious minorities. He also noted insufficient cooperation with the United Nations over human rights.
The European Union has yet to say whether it will co-sponsor the U.S. text.
Seven EU members -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain -- have voting rights at this year's U.N. rights forum which ends on April 28.
(Associated Press, April 5, 2000)
BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese military instructor who belonged to the fanned Falun Gong sect has been sent to a mental hospital and force-fed psychiatric drugs, a human rights group said Wednesday.
Li Qun is one of five sect members held at the Nanjing Psychiatric Hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
She was sent to the hospital Feb. 20, the Information Center said in a fax to reporters.
China's leaders banned the widely popular sect last July as a threat to communist rule. They appear to be especially worried that the group, which draws on Buddhism, Taoism and the traditional Chinese doctrine of qigong, attracted members from the military that protects the communist grip on power.
Li was given drugs that left her ``slowwitted and seriously injured her brain,'' the Information Center said. It said a nurse at the hospital reported that she was unable to receive telephone calls or visits from relatives.
A police official was sent to the same hospital in November, the Information Center said.
Ding Jianhua, a female senior member of the Public Security Bureau in Nanjing, was sent to the hospital Nov. 3 and held for more than four months, it said.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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