Group: Falun Gong Members Sentenced

The Associated Press, February 1, 2000

By Renee Schoof

BEIJING (AP) - A Beijing court has sentenced two sisters who helped lead the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement to six and seven years in prison and 30 other members who held a protest to terms of up to two years, a rights group reported today.

Dongcheng District Court in central Beijing convicted the 32 in one-day trials in separate courtrooms on Friday, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said, citing relatives of the defendants.

China's entirely government-controlled news media have not reported the trials, and court officials refused to comment.

The trials were the capital's biggest since four leading organizers of Falun Gong were sentenced to terms of up to 18 years on Dec. 26.

Sisters Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei apparently had ties to those leaders. Like the four organizers, the women were members of the group's inner circle, the Falun Gong Research Association, the center said. The government claims the association controlled Falun Gong in China and worked with sect founder, Li Hongzhi, who now lives in New York.

The sisters ran a shop in Beijing that was the main place in the capital for buying Falun Gong books, tapes and other materials, and prosecutors claimed it had sold 1.8 million books, the center said. It added that they were convicted of running an illegal business. Li Xiaobing got six years in prison and her younger sister received seven years.

The other 30 people, from Beijing and Jinzhou, a city in northeastern China's Liaoning province, were tried on the same day in a separate courtroom and convicted of using an evil cult to undermine the law, the group said.

They were sentenced to terms ranging from four months to two years for unfurling a banner in a protest in Tiananmen Square.

Falun Gong is a blend of meditation, slow-motion exercises and ideas drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and founder Li Hongzhi. Followers say it is not a religion but promotes health and morality.

As part of the ongoing crackdown on the movement, a policeman has been fired for letting the group's founder change his birth date on official records, an official of the discipline inspection commission of the Changchun city police said in a telephone interview.

Falun Gong founder and ``master'' Li Hongzhi was born on July 7, 1952, but changed his records in 1994 to say he was born May 13, 1951, state-run media have reported. The change meant Li's recorded birthday coincided with that of Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism.

Wang Changxue, who worked in a police records office in Changchun, was fired along with 15 others caught altering records, said the official, who would not give his name. Wang was not a member of Falun Gong, he said.


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