China jails Falun Gong leader, detains others

Reuters, Jan 3. 2000

BEIJING, Jan 3. 2000 (Reuters) - China has jailed a leader of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement for four years, while more than 100 of the group's adherents have been detained since the New Year, a Hong Kong-based rights watchdog said on Monday.

Li Fujun, 37, an assistant professor at Xinxiang Medical College in central Henan province, became the ninth Falun Gong leader to be jailed since the movement was banned last July, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement.

The statement said Li was convicted last Thursday of organising a Tiananmen Square protest and defending the group's claim that people can cure themselves without the aid of doctors or medicine.

The centre said that more than 100 Falun Gong believers detained by police since January 1 had been rounded up for protesting in Beijing's vast Tiananmen Square, the political heart of China and the focus of student-led demonstrations for democracy crushed by the army in 1989.

About 10 had tried to unfurl a protest banner at dusk on Sunday, it added.

Falun Gong practitioners have attempted to stage demonstrations in Tiananmen Square many times, especially since the movement was declared ``an evil cult'' in October.

Most have been whisked away by waiting police and freed after lectures on the ``evil'' of Falun Gong, which mixes Buddhism, Taoism and breathing exercises designed to harness energy in the body and heal.

Article Had Bad Effect

The centre said Li Fujun had been arrested in October, and that the court stated his posting an article on the Internet on how Falun Gong could cure illness had an impact that ``was very bad.''

The centre quoted the court as saying Li had ``defended the heresy'' of the movement's founder and leader, Li Hongzhi, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. The two are not related.

China banned the movement after its members demanded recognition of their faith in a series of bold protests, one of which saw 10,000 followers surround the central leadership compound in Beijing in April.

The government said some 1,400 people had died due to Li Hongzhi's belief that under Falun Gang people had no need of doctors.

The rights group alleged that to avoid international condemnation for religious persecution China had sent as many as 5,000 Falun Gong adherents to labour camps -- a punishment that requires no court trial.

Four main leaders were jailed last month for up to 18 years after being found guilty of stealing state secrets and manslaughter.

Four other leaders received up to 12 years in prison in the southern island province of Hainan in November.

Li Hongzhi, who preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science, technology and decadence, has defended his movement as apolitical and posing no threat to Communist rule.


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