Authorities prepare to charge key sect figures

South China Morning Post, August 25, 1999

Leading members of the banned Falun Gong will be prosecuted, the mainland said yesterday for the first time.

A circular from the Communist Party and State Council stated core members of Falun Gong "must be punished in accordance with the law", Xinhua said.

It did not mention what charges they face or how many people will be prosecuted, except to refer to a "tiny minority" of Falun Gong followers.

Falun Gong, a mishmash of Buddhism, Taoism and qi gong, claimed it had 100 million members, but the Government said two million was more accurate.

The circular said "a majority" of Falun Gong practitioners would be forgiven if they promised to leave the sect. Key members who admitted their mistakes voluntarily and "exposed" Falun Gong's secrets would be spared prosecution, it said.

But charges would be levelled at those who "plotted from behind the scenes and deliberately sabotaged social stability".

Government sources said the movement's main leaders faced charges ranging from disturbing public order to subversion and leaking state secrets.

Classified official documents were found in the homes of some leaders, the sources said.

If charged with subverting the Government or leaking state secrets, they face life in prison.

The circular did not say when indictments were expected.

The sources said Li Chang, a former deputy director at the Ministry of Public Security, and Wang Zhi wen, a former Railways Ministry official, were likely to be prosecuted.

State media reported this month that Mr Li orchestrated a protest outside state-owned Beijing Television in May last year without first seeking police approval.

Mr Li and Mr Wang are lieutenants of Li Hongzhi, the movement's US-based leader.

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