BEIJING (AP) - Authorities in northeastern China arrested six key members of the banned meditation group Falun Gong and charged them with disturbing the social order and conducting illegal business, an official newspaper reported today.
China's central government conducted a massive propaganda campaign against Falun Gong after it banned the popular group in July, condemning it as a threat to social stability and the control of the Communist Party. However, reports of arrests and punishment of leading members have been sketchy.
The China Women's News reported that Xu Yingquan, who joined the meditation sect in 1993 and was a Falun Gong leader in Jilin province, was among those arrested. All were arrested in Jilin.
The report said Xu and others got more than 10,000 people together for a protest at the Communist Party provincial office in Liaoning. It gave no date.
It was a gathering of 10,000 protesters around the Communist Party's central headquarters in Beijing in April that originally alarmed the leadership about the group's organizational powers.
Falun Gong, founded by Li Hongzhi, a Chinese native China living in New York, is a blend of Li's theories and concepts from Buddhism and Taoism.
Also arrested recently, according to the report, were Fu Xinli, who took part in protests in Tianjin and the Beijing protest in April, and Zhang Haitao, who set up a web page the day after Falun Gong was banned and appealed to members to protest at government offices, the newspaper report said.
The others were Zhang Guoliang, Deng Jin and Lu Yuzhong, who are accused of illegally publishing 210,000 issues of Falun Gong books worth $270,000, the report said.
A human rights group reported today that prosecutors in the Jilin capital, Changchun, formally charged Zhang Haitao with "incitement to subversion." Zhang's sentencing was likely to come this month, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.
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