Mass arrests latest weapon to stop sect

South China Morning Post, October 29, 1999
By Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Beijing has decided to broaden the clampdown on the Falun Gong sect and other illegal organisations through means including mass arrests. A leading cadre said in an internal meeting that the inability of the initial crackdown on the Falun Gong in July and August to quell the threat showed "the authority of the party leadership is no longer what it was before".

The cadre said tougher measures were needed to combat Falun Gong, other cults and dissident organisations to ensure the destabilising factors would be exterminated "once and for all".

A security source in Beijing said the authorities were surprised by the resurgence of Falun Gong activism in Beijing and other cities in the past week.

He said pro-Falun Gong demonstrations were held in cities as far away as Xiamen, in Fujian province, and Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. "In the first wave of the crackdown against the sect, only so-called leaders and core organisers were targeted by police," the source said. "The leadership has now decided to broaden the dragnet to cover all members who dare to confront the authorities."

The source said the formal classification yesterday of the Falun Gong as a cult would help legitimise the large-scale arrests.

The number of quasi-religious groups classified as cults has also gone beyond 100, with new groups being detected almost every week. But it is understood one reason behind the latest show of defiance was that in many localities, police had abused their power by indiscriminate arrests and demands for "fines" from Falun Gong associates.

The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said Beijing would begin trying sect members next week.

The Hong Kong-based watchdog said the first trial would be held in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

It said up to 30 others could be tried under charges of "leaking state secrets" later next month, with some facing the death penalty. Xu Xinmu, a former cadre in the Hebei provincial Government, is expected to be tried next week for leaking classified information.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said the Politburo continued to be alarmed by growing numbers of protests organised by laid-off workers. They said incidents had spread to areas in the northeast and southwest, which had not been previously affected by industrial unrest.

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