div CESNURCenter for Studies on New Religions


"Groups Fear Exclusion From the U.N."

by Barbara Crossette ("New York Times", May 22, 2000)

United Nations, May 22 -- Secretary General Kofi Annan, hoping to dissuade the disparate forces of anti-globalization from demonstrating against a United Nations millennium assembly in September, told a gathering of independent groups today that the solution to global inequalities is not confrontation but cooperation with international organizations.
Not all members of the United Nations are hearing that message, the leaders of some private organizations say. They see doors closing, not opening, to them as they try to play a larger part in United Nations work.
"Whatever cause you champion, the cure does not lie in protesting against globalization itself," Mr. Annan said on the opening day of a weeklong Millennium Forum of independent groups -- some of which had supported attacks on the World Trade Organization in Seattle and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington. "The poor are poor not because of globalization, but because of too little, because they are not part of it, because they are excluded."
But as Mr. Annan praised private agencies and advocacy groups for their successful work on social issues and urged them to join hands with him and with business leaders to rectify economic wrongs, several independent groups were reporting that they are feeling a backlash at the United Nations, as countries try to limit their access and activities.
In recent years nongovernmental organizations -- known around the world as N.G.O.'s -- have been increasingly active in and around the United Nations in fields as diverse as international criminal law, the environment, arms control and women's rights. They have often framed issues succinctly and done the most successful lobbying for world attention to them.
The organizations gain access to the United Nations and its meetings through a committee of the Economic and Social Council, which has the power to deny them accreditation. Most at risk are human rights and democracy groups, which come under close scrutiny from countries like China, India, Cuba and Russia.
Last week, the 19-member accrediting committee did not approve a number of groups until more discussions could be held. Among those in danger of losing access to United Nations events is Freedom House, the New York-based research organization that measures democracy and press freedom worldwide.
The accusation against Freedom House, made by China with backing from Cuba and Sudan, is on a technicality: that the organization tricked the United Nations into providing unauthorized interpreter services during the Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva to translate for Chinese-speaking members of their delegation.
The Chinese included members of Falun Gong and the China Democracy Party, but they were not speaking for their own organizations, which do not have access, but for Freedom House, said Michael Goldfarb, spokesman for the organization. Translation was provided freely by the United Nations, he added. "We work by the book," he said.
Adrian Karatnycky, president of Freedom House, called the move against his organization "an attempt by closed societies to muzzle free comment and the open discussion of human rights violations at the United Nations." The case will be taken up again in June by the committee, whose members are Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, Tunisia and the United States.
Cora Weiss, president of The Hague Appeal for Peace Foundation, said groups interested in publicizing human rights abuses in Chechnya are coming under similar pressure from Russia. She said the current committee, which was elected in January to a four-year term, appears to have a majority weighted against rights organizations. The extent of this trend will be apparent next month, when final decisions on access will be announced for a number of groups.
"The U.N. and governments can't survive without the partnership of organized civil society," Ms. Weiss said, echoing Mr. Annan's remarks. "We should be embraced, not feared."

"President Views Success of China Trade Bill as His Foreign Policy Legacy"

by David E. Sanger ("New York Times," May 22, 2000)

WASHINGTON, May 21 -- For seven years now, very little has gone as planned in Bill Clinton's effort to shape a new relationship with China. Now, amid increasing confidence among White House officials this weekend that they will prevail in one of the most crucial Congressional votes in a decade, the president who came to office knowing little about China may leave claiming he fundamentally altered Washington's relations with Beijing.
For Mr. Clinton, the problem has not been a lack of vision. Once in office, he quickly cast away his campaign attacks on President Bush for "coddling dictators" in Beijing. And since 1994, he has steadily built on his theme that the Internet and China's growing economic ties to the West would ultimately create pressures for political openness that Beijing will not be able to control.
The problem has been one of execution. The Chinese have hardly cooperated, jailing more dissidents even as Mr. Clinton argued that economic freedom would eventually produce political freedom. Nor has there been much help from the president's fellow Democrats, most of whom have fought his trade and China policies at every turn.
But in recent weeks, Mr. Clinton has sworn to close friends and colleagues that he will not let himself repeat the same mistake he now blames himself for making at least twice before -- letting the politics of the moment, or even the prospect of a war within his own political party, pull him back from a step he is convinced is the best hope of keeping China from becoming an adversary.
"He knows he blew it in 1995 and again last year," said one of Mr. Clinton's foreign policy advisers, referring to Mr. Clinton's decision to grant a visa to Taiwan's president in 1995 to visit the United States, and then to walk away last year from a sweeping trade deal with China's reform-minded prime minister, Zhu Rongji.
So with the passion of a convert, Mr. Clinton is spending hours each day arguing the merits of a strategic vision he took years to adopt. In small gatherings in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House residence and even aboard Air Force One as he took New York Democrats to his wife's formal nomination for the Senate race, he has offered lectures about competing scenarios of what America's dealings with China may look like in 2025.
In public, his aides say the vote, scheduled for Wednesday, is still too close to call. "We don't have the 218 to pass it, and the opposition do not have 218 at this point, in my opinion, to stop it," Commerce Secretary William Daley, who is leading the administration's lobbying drive, said today on CBS' "Face the Nation."
In private, however, many of Mr. Clinton's advisers suspect the bill to give China permanent trade status -- thus ending an annual Congressional review -- will pass by a margin of 10 votes or more, chiefly because of the support of Republicans. The Republican whip in the House, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, said today that "we're moving toward that magic number of 218," giving much of the credit to lobbying by the president.
For Mr. Clinton, the vote may be the last hope of making a deep imprint on foreign affairs in his second term. With time running out for a Mideast peace accord or a new arms deal with Russia, the outcome of the vote has taken on huge importance in the president's mind.
"He hates the word, but it's the legacy thing, in a big way," said one cabinet member.
But even if Mr. Clinton wins, the victory may feel incomplete.
Mr. Clinton acknowledges that for all his talk about the benefits for America of economic globalization -- how it opens new markets for American exports and innovation -- fewer Democrats are with him on this than on the1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He told a colleague not long ago, "I'm doing this despite my party, not with it."
Even allies say that is because his commitment to rebuilding the China relationship and pursuing a trade policy for a new era of globalized commerce has waxed and waned.
"As in so many things," said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a leading advocate of the trade bill, "he too often let the politics of last month or next month affect decisions toward China that go to half-century strategic issues." Only in recent times, he added, "has the president begun to see this in historic terms."
So far, the White House strategy has been fairly straightforward. Mr. Clinton has largely let others argue the economic benefits, and avoided direct engagement with the labor unions that fear that any gains from an increase in exports to China will be outweighed by the movement of American jobs there.
Instead, the president has focused his arguments on national security, saying the real point of letting China into the World Trade Organization is to further economic engagement to give a boost to China's reformers and prevent the two nations from drifting into adversarial roles.
But with the coalition in Congress so fragile, Mr. Clinton's staff has carefully shielded him from much public engagement about the deal. They canceled a television address to the nation this evening, for fear it would anger undecided Democrats. After lengthy discussions, they declined to make him available for an interview on his seven years of dealings with China, again out of concern he might say something that could cost a few needed votes.
To the enormous frustration of the White House, the Chinese are hardly aiding Mr. Clinton's cause. In past years, when Congress was gearing up for a vote on the annual renewal of trading status, Beijing usually released a few long-imprisoned dissidents.
But this time, as Mr. Daley said recently, "the Chinese certainly aren't making it any easier." While they moderated their reaction to the inauguration this weekend of a new Taiwanese president, Chinese authorities have continued to arrest members of the Falun Gong religious group, and recently sentenced a leader of the fledgling Democracy Party to a long term in prison. Mr. Clinton, curiously, has made no recent public comments about those arrests.
Mr. Clinton and his team have tried to turn China's continued crackdowns to their advantage, arguing that the trade deal, by ushering in Western technology, legal systems and ideas, will ultimately undercut the ability of the Chinese government to repress dissent.
At the United States Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, the president took this argument further than he ever has before, making the case that "when over 100 million people in China can get on the Net, it will be impossible to maintain a closed political and economic society."
"He's right, but it will take a generation," said Sandra Kristoff, who headed the Asian operations of the National Security Council in Mr. Clinton's first term. President Jiang Zemin of China is taking the other side of that bet, hoping that -- like Singapore -- he can reap the benefits of an open economic system while suppressing, or at least managing, true political opposition.
Mr. Clinton will likely be deep into retirement before historians can assess whether he or Mr. Jiang have guessed right. But it is already clear that Mr. Clinton's journey to his strategic vision of dealing with China was a long road with many unintended detours.
His first 18 months in office were spent digging his way out of his own campaign rhetoric. His comments had inflamed the Chinese, and Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said, "I remember telling him one day that the first step was that he had to treat China with respect." Mr. Clinton, he said, "seemed surprised."
By the end of 1993, and a disastrous trip to China by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, it was clear that the president's effort to link China's trading rights to its performance on human rights and arms proliferation was collapsing. It was a short intellectual leap to granting permanent trade status.
"There was no evidence that we ever gained any leverage over the Chinese with annual renewal," said Charlene Barshefsky, Mr. Clinton's trade representative. "It was an empty threat. We knew it, and the Chinese knew it."
Mr. Clinton reversed course, saying he could make more progress with China through engagement than with threats -- the conclusion his predecessors had reached.
Then in 1995, with his re-election looming, Mr. Clinton allowed Lee Tung-hui, Taiwan's president, to make a private visit to Cornell University for a college reunion, over the objections of many advisers. Mr. Clinton feared that denying the visa would prompt Congress to rewrite the Taiwan Security Act, worsening relations with Beijing. But he underestimated the outrage in Beijing.
Mr. Clinton now views that as a mistake. "There were two stages to his learning about China," said one former adviser, who dealt with China policy daily. "After the campaign he learned that China was a lot more complex than he believed. And now he's learned the second part -- that dealing with China means putting the security interests first, and not letting politics get in the way."
If that was the lesson, it was forgotten again in April 1999. By that time Mr. Clinton and Mr. Jiang had exchanged visits to China and the United States, and gotten to the final stages of the 13-year-long negotiations for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Mr. Zhu, the prime minister who has come to personify China's economic reform movement, arrived in Washington ready to end the wrangling with an offer of a huge range of openings.
Many advised Mr. Clinton to take it; but he listened to Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Gene Sperling, the head of the National Economic Council, who feared that if a deal were struck, Congress was in no mood to pass it.
Mr. Clinton realized almost immediately he had made a mistake, but it was too late. Once the United States accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the air war over Kosovo just a few weeks later, talks froze. They were not resumed until marathon negotiations in November, and then some of the terms had changed -- for better, and for worse.
"The previous deal couldn't have passed,"' Mr. Sperling said recently, referring both to the details of the pact and the Congressional climate. "This one can."

"Falun Gong Man Dies in Custody"

by Elaine Kurternbach (Associated Press, May 19, 2000)

BEIJING (AP) - A former head of a local militia and believer in the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement has died in a Chinese police detention center after refusing food and water for eight days, a human rights group reported today.
Zhou Zhichang, 45, died May 6 in the Shuangcheng No. 1 prison in northeastern Heilongjiang province, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy said. He had been imprisoned there since he was caught in Beijing in September attempting to protest against the government ban, it said.
Officials at the prison refused comment and hung up the phone after finding out the caller was not a family member.
Zhou was the head of the citizens militia and military reserves in a district of Shuangcheng city, the group said. Such a position is usually held by a colonel or lieutenant colonel, but the report did not mention if Zhou had a military rank.
Zhou was among thousands of Falun Gong members detained since the government outlawed the group as a public menace 10 months ago. The group's popularity, especially among military officers and members of the ruling Communist Party, alarmed Chinese leaders, who saw Falun Gong as a threat to their power.
Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers. It combines traditional meditation exercises with Buddhist, Taoist and the often unorthodox ideas of its founder, a former government grain clerk. Believers say it promotes health and moral living.
Unconfirmed reports by Falun Gong members and human rights groups say at least 17 Falun Gong adherents have died during detention, some from beatings and some after hunger strikes. The government has denied that any sect members died from mistreatment.
Prison officials waited nine days to inform family members of Zhou's death, purportedly from a sudden heart attack, the Information Center said. It cited relatives who said Zhou did not have a heart condition when he entered prison.
Meanwhile, the Information Center reported that prosecutors in Shenzhen, a boomtown bordering Hong Kong, plan to put on trial the wife of a local Falun Gong organizer.
Li Jianhui was sentenced March 28 to four years in prison for violating the law against ``evil cults.'' His wife, Dai Ying, was detained in early March after trying to petition the United Nations for help in gaining her husband's release, the center said.
Officials with Shenzhen's court and prosecutors office declined comment. The Information Center said city leaders ordered the trial to serve as a warning for others.

"Closer checks on qi gong groups"

by Xiao Yu ("South China Morning Post," May 15, 2000)

Most qi gong organisations have been told to set up Communist Party cells to enable the authorities to exercise tighter supervision over the potentially "subversive" groups. This is one of a number of measures by party and government authorities to control qi gong outfits through a "licensing" system.
New regulations require a Communist Party cell to be set up within any qi gong group that boasts three or more party members. This cell, which will report to party authorities, will supposedly keep an eye on the "political activities" of the qi gong group.
Senior officials, including retirees, have also been targeted. The regulations ban senior cadres and officials at all levels from taking up leading positions in qi gong groups.
Party and Communist Youth League members, and civil servants are prohibited from joining associations deemed to have "dangerous social effects". Those who have joined will be asked to leave or risk punishment.
The rules require all qi gong organisations to register their management and business operations. All applications will have to be approved by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The Ministry of Health will oversee organisations that claim to cure illnesses through breathing exercises and the Administration of Sports will supervise body-building groups.
Qi gong branches are not allowed to set up businesses, schools or training centres under the new rules. Overseas qi gong groups are prohibited from setting up offices or branches on the mainland.
The control extends to the production of qi gong printed, audio and visual products. The rules require that all items must be published by an officially recognised firm. Parties involved in publishing, printing and distribution of materials found to promote superstition will be liable to punishment.
The regulations are aimed at cleaning up irregularities of qi gong practice on the mainland.
Between 1991 and 1996, 1,761 qi gong groups were registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, in addition to seven nation-wide organisations. The number of qi gong schools reached 1,032. However, it is believed many were not registered.
Analysts said authorities had taken a tougher stance on qi gong groups after the decision to ban the Falun Gong sect, deemed a grave threat to social order.

"Scores of Falun Gong protesters nabbed, 2 Belgians detained"

(Kyodo News Service, May 13, 2000)

BEIJING, May 13 (Kyodo) - More than 60 supporters of the banned Falun Gong religious group were arrested on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Saturday as they marked the eighth anniversary of the movement while two Belgian tourists were detained after filming an arrest.
It was the second large-scale demonstration in three days. On Thursday, over 100 protesters were arrested as they marked Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi's birthday. Li lives in self-imposed exile in New York.
Small-scale demonstrations began in the early morning hours and continued into the afternoon. Typically, a small group of Falun Gong adherents would unfurl a banner in the vast expanse of the world's largest square.
''Truth, Beauty, Endurance,'' read one banner.
''The Great Law of Falun is Good,'' read another.
When the latter banner was unfurled, two Belgian men were detained after one of them videotaped the incident, which included the violent throwing of a woman to the hard cement pavement.
Members of their tour group said the two had no connection to Falun Gong.
Belgian Embassy officials could not confirm that the two had been released.
Other protesters passed out chrysanthemum flowers or sat in the lotus position. Sanitation workers quickly swept the fallen petals away.
Protesters came from all walks of life. Elderly peasants, well-dressed urbanites and even high-school age children joined the crowds of people filling the police vans, which swooped though the throng of tourists at the first sign of trouble.
One girl, wearing the blue and white athletic garb of a high school student, calmly held a yellow banner above her head until a swarm of plainclothes police took her into custody.
The police presence was extremely heavy. Protesters had only seconds to perform their act of civil disobedience before being arrested.
Although some adherents were treated roughly, most did not resist arrest and were not visibly mistreated.
Both Chinese and foreign tourists took great interest in the arrests. Crowds would rush to see each new protest -- usually only in time to see the detainee being spirited into a police van.
State-controlled media has not covered the events on the square, but tens of thousands of Chinese tourists have seen the arrests first hand in recent months.
National holidays, gatherings of political leaders, and important anniversaries in Falun Gong's short history have been cause for large-scale demonstrations.
Fearing a loss of control after some 10,000 Falun Gong adherents peacefully surrounded Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound in April 1999, the central government launched a massive mid-summer crackdown on the movement.
It was branded an ''evil sect'' and key members -- especially Communist Party adherents -- have been jailed. The government claims that Falun Gong's teachings have been responsible for 1,559 deaths.
Tens of thousands of adherents have been detained, and thousands have been sent to ''re-education through labor'' camps in the past year.
Yet the protests continue.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist, and folk religions preaching the attainment of good health and morality through special exercises.

"Falun Gong Members Celebrate"

by Charles Hutzler (Associated Press, May 13, 2000)

BEIJING (AP) - Members of the banned Falun Gong sect defiantly celebrated their spiritual movement's eighth birthday today in Tiananmen Square as police beat followers, knocking them and their yellow banners and flowers to the ground.
Police punched and kicked five women who tried to unfurl a banner. The beating continued even after they were forced into a police van. Plainclothes security officers pushed down another woman standing amid 10 followers raising banners. One read ``Truthfulness, Benevolence, Forbearance,'' Falun Gong's motto.
A half-dozen followers raised yellow chrysanthemums. Police hustled them away, leaving the flowers scattered on the square's gray paving stones. A street sweeping truck was sent in to clean away the protest's remains.
At least 50 people were taken away by police after staging scattered acts of civil disobedience across the vast square in central Beijing. Chinese and foreign tourists, who come to the square by the thousands every day, gawked at the outbursts and the frenzied police response.
The protest was the third recent demonstration marking important sect anniversaries. On April 25, followers came to Tiananmen to remember a protest by 10,000 followers last year that provoked the communist government's crackdown. On Thursday, they honored the birthday of founder Li Hongzhi.
Today marked the sect's founding in 1992. The group has declared the date the first World Falun Dafa Day, using another name for the practice.
In Hong Kong - where the sect is not banned - 150 practitioners meditated, slowly performing exercises with their eyes closed in a park in the central business district. Events were also planned in New York and other cities worldwide.
An ex-government grain clerk, Li combined traditional meditation exercises with Buddhist, Taoist and his own unorthodox ideas to create Falun Gong. Practice is supposed to promote health and moral living. Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in China. Li left China for New York in 1998, helping his movement attract millions more around the world.
Chinese leaders banned the group 9 1/2 months ago, fearing its popularity and flair for organization. They have accused Falun Gong of cheating people and causing 1,559 deaths, mostly among practitioners who refused medical treatment. Human rights groups estimate 5,000 followers have been sent to labor camps.
Police, however, have been unable to stop the protests, a testament to the fervor of believers. Frustrated, police have shown a willingness to resort to force.
Plainclothes police with high-powered binoculars scanned today's crowd for signs of trouble. A practitioner said plainclothes police accosted suspected followers, bumping into them and cursing founder Li Hongzhi to provoke a response. Once identified, the follower was quickly taken away.
Police also detained at least three foreign tourists today, apparently for photographing or videotaping protests. A uniformed officer pushed and kicked one of the tourists into a police van.
The government did not comment on the protests. But indirectly it sent its people signals that it is beating the sect. State television Friday night ran another report on a farming family that had renounced Falun Gong.
Newspapers today reported that a leading U.S.-based religious broadcaster supported the crackdown. On Friday, Paul Crouch, president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, defended China's crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement , saying it was only protecting its citizens from a false and dangerous cult.

"China detains dozens of Falun Gong protesters"

(Reuters, May 13, 2000)

BEIJING, May 13 (Reuters) - Chinese police on Saturday detained dozens of Falun Gong adherents in Tiananmen Square, among them an elderly woman dragged on the ground and a man of Western appearance hauled into a police van, eyewitnesses said.
Foreign and Chinese tourists watched as police grabbed three women and pushed them into a van when members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement tried to unfurl banners during a peaceful protest in the vast plaza in the heart of Beijing.
Eyewitnesses described seeing at least 50 other people detained in isolated protests around the square, the second time this week police have moved against adherents of the Falun Gong, which Beijing calls an ``evil cult.''
Plainclothes policemen with walkie-talkies videotaped detentions and the surrounding crowds on Saturday.
Several protesters, including an elderly woman, were thrown to the ground and dragged into police vans, one eyewitness said.
A tall European man was roughed up when he apparently resisted handing his camera to police, and at least one other Westerner was forcibly carried to a police van, the witness said.
The spectacle of police moving against demonstrators who seek official acceptance of Falun Gong has become a daily occurrence in Beijing since the group was declared illegal last July.
But the number of protests was higher than usual on Saturday -- a day many adherents have designated ``World Falun Dafa Day'' to celebrate the movement, which combines meditation with a doctrine rooted loosely in Buddhist and Daoist teachings.
Falun Dafa, which means the Great Law of the Dharma Wheel, is another name for the group.
Protests were also heavy on Thursday, with police detaining scores of members who came to the square to mark the 48th birthday of Li Hongzhi, a Chinese former granary clerk who founded the movement and now lives in exile in New York.
State media published a lengthy commentary this week declaring a ``decisive victory'' over the movement, which initially shocked the atheist Communist party with a 10,000-member protest in Beijing on April 25, 1999.
The government, which claims the group had two million members at its peak, says membership has dwindled to roughly 40,000.
Beijing calls Falun Gong an ``evil cult'' that is anti-science and that cheats its followers, and blames it for 1,500 deaths by suicide or refused medical care.
Falun Gong says it has tens of millions of followers in China and 40 other countries.
At least 15 adherents have died in police custody from beatings or after hunger strikes, according to human rights groups.
China has acknowledged several deaths, but says they were caused by suicide or natural causes.

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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