China scolds U.S. for protecting Falun Gong

Reuters, November 8, 1999

BEIJING, Nov 8, 1999 (Reuters) - China scolded the United States on Monday for granting political asylum to "a Chinese Falun Gong practitioner" -- a clear reference to Li Hongzhi, leader of the banned spiritual group.

Beijing voiced "strong indignation and firm opposition to a decision by U.S. immigration authorities to grant political asylum to a Chinese Falun Gong practitioner," Xinhua news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman as saying.

"The Falun Gong organisation is an evil cult that jeopardises the Chinese society and the Chinese people," Zhang Qiyue said.

"China has made solemn representations to the U.S. on this issue," she said.

It was unclear whether the United States had granted political asylum to Li, who has resided in the United States for two years.

But Washington has said in the past it was unwilling to extradite Li to China, where he would face trial and all but certain conviction for his role as leader of the group, which was declared illegal by Beijing in July.

Li maintains that followers of Falun Gong can attain mystical powers and avoid the destruction of the earth by practising meditation exercises and studying his quasi-Buddhist doctrine.

The Communist party sees it as a threat to social stability and the gravest challenge to its authority in its 50 years of rule.

The group, which claims tens of millions of followers, first shocked the leaders on April 25, when more than 10,000 members emerged from nowhere to sit silently outside the government compound in Beijing and demand respect for their faith.

Zhang said China would punish a small number of the group's organisers while it would "educate" rank-and-file members.

She blasted the U.S. for accusing China of persecution, saying "this is a typical demonstration of the double standard the U.S. side adopts on the cult problem."

"We demand the U.S. government understand and respect the Chinese government's principled stand in handling the Falun Gong problem by correcting this erroneous act of the U.S. immigration authorities," she said.

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