OTTAWA, Nov 9, 1999 (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Tuesday condemned China's arrest of members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and its repression of freedom of belief
China banned Falun Gong last July and declared it a cult two weeks ago when it passed legislation threatening jail terms for the movement's leaders.
"We are most disturbed at the repression of freedom of belief and the arrest and detention of so many Falun Gong practitioners," said Canadian Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific Raymond Chan in a statement.
Chinese police formally arrested 111 members of Falun Gong on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to stealing state secrets, Beijing announced on Monday.
Chan was commenting on a two-day joint meeting in Beijing this week with Chinese officials to discuss human rights and the repression of freedom of belief.
"Our delegation will raise specific issues related to religious freedoms and basic rights and reports of ill-treatment of Falun Gong adherents," said Chan.
Beijing denies persecuting Falun Gong and accuses the movement of brainwashing, threatening social stability and causing more than 1,400 deaths.
China has expanded its crackdown on spiritual movements such as Falun Gong and arrested the leaders of two martial arts groups, according to a Hong Kong human rights group.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said that the Chinese government was well aware of Ottawa's interest in areas such as civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
He said the Canada-China joint committee on human rights meeting in Beijing was to promote Canada's commitment to human rights observance and democratic development in China. "This committee was established as a key component in our human rights dialogue with China," Axworthy said in the release.
This was the fourth such meeting between Canadian and Chinese officials. The committee has six members, including one Nongovernmental Organisation (NGO).
The Canada-China meeting is taking place as a seven-member Canadian delegation on religious freedoms, organised by the Canadian Council of Churches, completes a two-week visit to China.
Canadian delegates to the human rights committee will visit Tibet following the Beijing meeting.
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