China vows to crush sect, indicts leaders

Reuters, November 5, 1999
By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING, Nov 5, 1999 (Reuters) - The Chinese Communist Party vowed on Friday to wipe out the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and announced the first criminal charges against its leaders.

"Our attitude must be resolute and clear," the People's Daily said in a front-page commentary. "That is being thorough in exterminating evil and getting to the root of things."

The party newspaper said Falun Gong's "dying embers would glow again" unless Beijing "dug out lawbreaking leaders behind the scene and crushed their underground organisation."

A Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Friday at least six Falun Gong members had died in police custody since August, one from a hunger strike, one wHundreds of Falun Gong members have conducted silent protests in Tiananmen Square, the political heart of China, over the past two weeks in protest against the declaration of the movement as a cult. They say it poses no threat to communist rule.

Most have been led away peacefully by police after admitting their allegiance.

The People's Daily said eradicating Falun Gong would be a long, difficult job, but the party could not lower its guard. It accused the group of colluding with hostile forces overseas.

Beijing has shrugged off U.S. criticism of its crackdown on Falun Gong and accused Washington of double standards.

Chinese state media have compared Falun Gong with the U.S. Branch Davidians. Eighty of them died in a fire during an armed assault on their compound by the FBI in 1993.

China has sought the extradition of the movement's U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, but Washington has refused.

Li, who preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science, technology and decadence, says his group is apolitical and poses no threat to the Communist Party.

ho was beaten to death and four who committed suicide. Officials have confirmed one death.

A Falun Gong branch leader in Qingdao in the eastern coastal province of Shandong was indicted on Thursday on charges of "using a cult group to sabotage legal institutions," a court official said by telephone. He declined to elaborate.

In the southern island province of Hainan, prosecutors indicted four branch leaders on charges of "using an evil religion to violate the law," the Xinhua news agency said.

They are accused of defying a Ministry of Public Security ban on Falun Gong and organising many illegal gatherings of practitioners, the official agency said.

One, Song Yuesheng, is also accused of escaping from police custody with the help of the three others, it said. Their trials are due to begin next week, a court official said.

The Hong Kong human rights group said a branch leader in the southwestern city of Chongqing had been charged with organising an anti-government protest last November.

The official Jilin Daily said seven practitioners were sent without trial to labour camps for one year for "disturbing social order."

Four leaders have been arrested in Beijing, but they have not yet been charged. They include Li Chang, a former deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security.

Crackdown Declared A Success

China declared Falun Gong a cult last month and passed legislation promising jail terms for leaders of the movement -- a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and breathing exercises designed to harness inner energy and heal.

The People's Daily declared the crackdown a success, saying most adherents had realised their errors and shown repentance.

But an extremely small group of practitioners have fought stubbornly with their backs to the wall, threatening the government with hunger strikes and suicide, the commentary said.


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