BEIJING -- Seven Falun Gong leaders from southern China who continued to hold protests after the meditation group was banned have been put on trial, Chinese state media reported Monday.
Song Yuesheng and six other leaders of the group in Hainan province violated orders banning Falun Gong last summer, the government's Xinhua News Agency reported. Their trials are now under way, it said without giving any details.
State TV news showed Song and others signing documents and wearing handcuffs while escorted by police. Trials of Falun Gong leaders have been widely expected, but China's entirely government-controlled news media have not released information about them.
Song helped organize gatherings in the weeks after the ban was declared on July 22, the Xinhua report said. He and other Falun Gong organizers were the "fuse" behind the largest protest in the province, on Aug. 8, the report said without giving any information about the size of the gathering. Song and his wife fled Hainan before that protest, Xinhua said. He and others were arrested Sept. 18 in the northern city of Taiyuan.
The report also named Chen Yuan, general manager of a Hainan real estate development company, as a major supporter of the provincial Falun Gong group.
Falun Gong, founded by Li Hongzhi, who left China and lives in New York, is a blend of Taoism, Buddhism and Li's own theories. The government said the group was politically motivated and caused social instability and the death of hundreds of people who heeded the group's advice to avoid medical care. Falun Gong was popular throughout China and had some 70 million members by one official estimate, making it larger than the 61-million-member Communist Party.
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