Falun Gong four formally charged

Associated Press, November 3, 1999
By George Gedda

Prosecutors in southern China confirmed on Wednesday that they have formally charged four members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, stepping up a three-month government campaign against the group by preparing trials for its leaders.

The state-run China Women's News said charges against Song Yuesheng, Jiang Shilong, Chen Yuan and Liang Yulin were filed in court Monday, two days after Chinese legislators approved new regulations to tighten laws against groups like Falun Gong that the government views as dangerous cults. An official at the prosecutors' office in Haikou city, in the southern island province of Hainan, said the four could be tried within ten days, but added that a trial date has yet to be announced.

Three other Falun Gong leaders from Hainan whose detentions had also been reported by state media have yet to be formally indicted, either for lack of evidence or because their cases are still being investigated, said the official, who gave only her surname, Lin.

Song and the three others charged allegedly organised an illegal gathering of 183 Falun Gong practitioners in a Haikou park on August 8, more that two weeks after Chinese leaders banned the popular exercise and meditation group on July 22 as a public menace, according to the Women's News report. Haikou prosecutors accused Song of ''inciting, deceiving and organising'' Falun Gong members into disrupting the implementation of state laws, ''with serious consequences,'' the newspaper said.

If the Haikou Intermediate People's Court, which is handling the case, accepts prosecutors' claims that his alleged crimes were particularly serious, he could be sentenced to a minimum of seven years in jail under China's criminal law.

The newspaper said Song also faced an additional charge of attempting to escape from custody following his September arrest, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Jiang, Chen and Liang, meanwhile, were accused of being ''backbone members'' of Falun Gong who ''refused to mend their ways despite repeated admonitions,'' the newspaper said. They face a minimum of three years imprisonment if convicted, or more than seven years if their alleged crimes are judged to be extremely serious.

All four are the first Falun Gong leaders to be charged in Hainan, the Women's News said. Trials are also expected for four other Falun Gong leaders detained by police in Beijing, as well as for other group members rounded up in the crackdown.

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