Embattled Falun Gong says to fight China by radio

BEIJING, June 30, 2000 (Reuters) - The embattled Falun Gong spiritual movement will take to the air waves on Saturday with daily Chinese-language broadcasts designed to counter Beijing's harsh crackdown on the sect, the group said.

Almost a year after China banned Falun Gong and launched a crackdown on what it has labelled an "evil cult," World Falun Dafa Radio will make its debut on 9.915 MHz and online at www.falundafaradio.org, it said in a statement.

Falun Dafa, which means the Great Law of the Dharma Wheel, is another name for the movement, which combines meditation with a doctrine rooted loosely in Buddhist and Daoist teachings.

The nightly one-hour broadcast at 10 p.m. Beijing time (1400 GMT) aims to counter "defamation" and "persecution" of the meditation movement by Communist authorities, it said. The statement did not say where the broadcast is coming from.

"To justify their brutal crackdown, the Chinese government launched an intensive defamation campaign against Falun Gong," the statement said.

"It fabricated horror stories and distorted facts to cover the truth," it said.

China banned Falun Gong in July last year and launched a fierce campaign against the group in the state media. It says Falun Gong is anti-science and cheats its followers, blaming it for 1,500 deaths by suicide or refusal to accept medical care.

Falun Gong denies this and says thousands of its adherents have been arrested and hundreds sent to labour camps.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said it had documented at least 22 deaths of Falun Gong adherents who have died in police custody as a result of torture, forced medication and other abuses.

Founded by Li Hongzhi, a Chinese former granary clerk who now is thought to live in exile in New York, the group initially shocked the atheist Communist Party when 10,000-members circled the leadership's Beijing compound in protest on April 25, 1999.

Falun Gong says it has tens of millions of followers in China and 40 other countries.

The government, which claims the group had two million members at its peak, says membership has dwindled to roughly 40,000. Recent state media reports have focused on those who have left the group and resumed normal lives.

China blocks Web sites it deems politically sensitive and has jammed radio broadcasts it viewed as hostile to its Communist government.


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