BEIJING (AP) - China has issued a warning that civil servants who refuse to renounce a banned meditation movement will face severe punishment, the state-run People's Daily reported today.
Government workers who have continued to join illegal gatherings of Falun Gong since it was banned on July 22 will be "severely penalized," the report said without elaborating.
It said that civil servants who were "politically motivated and have organized illegal gatherings with a result of disturbing social order and causing social instability" should be fired.
The warning appeared to indicate the authorities have not managed to get full compliance from local governments in enforcing the ban on the group, which practices a blend of Taoism, Buddhism and qigong - slow motion exercises combined with a form of faith healing.
The report said the circular was intended to ensure local governments and departments under China's Cabinet, the State Council, would "properly deal" with employees linked to Falun Gong, which the authorities contend is a public menace.
Since the ban was announced, an unknown number of Falun Gong adherents have been detained and in some cases subjected to "re-education" in an effort to get them to recant.
Falun Gong members accuse the police of beatings and other maltreatment of those who have been detained.
The report did not clarify what actions would be taken against people who refuse to denounce the group, saying each "will face different disciplinary actions in line with their respective conditions."
The report said that civil servants would not be penalized if they discontinued their involvement in the group, which by some estimates had as many as 70 million followers.
The authorities tolerated the group until 10,000 members surrounded the Communist leadership compound in Beijing in April in a silent protest. Official reports have indicated that some key organizers may face criminal prosecution, although so far no trials have been announced.
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