HK sect members protest latest China crackdown

Reuters, October 28, 1999

HONG KONG, Oct 28, 1999 (Reuters) - A dozen members of the Falun Gong sect on Thursday kept up their around-the-clock protest in Hong Kong against Beijing's latest crackdown on the movement in mainland China.

The mostly middle-aged members of the Falun Gong, an outlawed spiritual movement in mainland China, have sat silently outside China's official Xinhua News Agency since Monday. Belinda Pang, a Falun Gong practitioner, said they wanted to get the message across to people in China and Hong Kong that Falun Gong was not a cult and practitioners were being persecuted in mainland China.

"We are here to tell people we are not a cult. We are not an evil religion," Pang said.

"And even by being here, we are conducting everything in good manner," she said, adding that they would not chant any protest slogans, only practice or read Falun Gong books.

In Beijing, Chinese police carted scores of Falun Gong members out of Tiananmen Square on Thursday after the government officially branded the group a cult.

Pang said Hong Kong members of the group had also called on China to withdraw a warrant for the arrest of U.S-based leader Li Hongzhi, release detained fellow members and stop the suppression of Falun Gong in China.

Hong Kong reverted to China in 1997 but is largely autonomus and has permitted the practice of Falun Gong -- a mix of exercise and meditation.

Hundreds of Falun Gong members have protested since Monday in Tiananmen Square. China outlawed the sect on July 22 after followers protested outside government offices in more than 30 Chinese cities in the wake of a crackdown on its China-based leaders.

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