China warns U.S. of new difficulties over sect

Reuters, Nov 9, 1999

BEIJING, Nov 9, 1999 (Reuters) - China warned the United States on Tuesday of "new difficulties" in their shaky ties unless Washington stopped criticising Beijing's crackdown on the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue demanded the United States "correct its erroneous" decision to grant political asylum to a Falun Gong adherent in New York. She did not identify the practitioner.

She accused Washington of practising "double standards" and attacking China "for no reason at all."

Sino-U.S. ties have been strained in recent years over a host of disputes, including Taiwan, Tibet, human rights abuses and trade. In May, ties plunged to their lowest ebb in decades over the NATO bombing of Beijing's embassy in Belgrade.

Zhang said China was "indignant and resolutely opposed" to the decision to grant asylum to the Falun Gong practitioner, a move she said was an intervention in China's internal affairs.

China has made representations with the United States on the asylum issue, the spokeswoman said.

She denied allegations China was persecuting practitioners, saying most were being "educated" on the evils of Falun Gong and only a minority was being punished in accordance with the law for plotting and inciting others to cause trouble.

Falun Gong Seen As Danger To Stability

Zhang said Falun Gong was a cult that endangered society and the crackdown was designed to "maintain social stability."

The Communist Party sees Falun Gong, outlawed in July and branded a cult last month, as the gravest challenge to its authority in its 50 years of rule.

The group, which claims millions of followers, first shocked the government in April when more than 10,000 members emerged from nowhere to sit silently outside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing to demand official status for their faith.

China has vowed to wipe out Falun Gong -- a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and qiqong, which is designed to harness inner energy and heal -- accusing it of challenging Communist rule.

Falun Gong says it is apolitical and poses no threat to communist rule. Its U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology.

Chinese police have formally arrested 111 Falun Gong members on charges ranging from obstruction of the law to stealing state secrets.

Those arrested since the movement was outlawed in July did not include others held under various forms of detention, including labour camps, or undergoing anti-cult education.

A Hong Kong-based human rights group said last week at least six Falun Gong members had died in custody since August, one from a hunger strike, one who was beaten to death and four who committed suicide.

The government has given the names of three women members who died in custody, but denied maltreatment.

Authorities say Falun Gong has bilked followers and caused more than 1,400 deaths by refusing to allow sick adherents to seek medical treatment.

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