China court charges seven Falun Gong members

Reuters, November 13, 1999

HONG KONG, Nov 13, 1999(Reuters) - A court in northern China has charged seven practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement with "using the cult to violate the law," a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Saturday.

The court in the city of Shijiazhuang laid the charges on Thursday against Liang Yening, Zhang Jiangzeng, Li Jinxiao, Ren Yueying, Zhang Boyu, Xu Liang and Zhang Ka, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

On Friday, China jailed four leaders of the banned movement for up to 12 years in what was the first known trial of members of what the ruling Communist Party has decreed "an evil cult."

The rights group estimated that hundreds of members of Falun Gong throughout China face sentencing and that more than 1,000 have been sentenced so far.

In Shijiazhuang in the past week 14 people have been sentenced to labour camp, it said.

Falun Gong shocked the government in April when more than 10,000 members staged a surprise, silent protest outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound to demand official recognition.

The government, which apparently fears the group as a threat to its monopoly on power, declared the movement "an evil cult" last month and vowed to wipe it out.

The government has blamed Falun Gong for the deaths of about 1,400 practitioners.

Falun Gong, which mixes Buddhist and Taoist beliefs with meditation and breathing exercises designed to harness inner energy and heal, discourages adherents from seeking medical help.

The group has burrowed its way into the ranks of the Communist Party, the government and the military. It has also attracted support from the most vulnerable sections of society, including the unemployed, the elderly and the sick.

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