New crackdown on sect disturbing: US

Hong Kong Standard, October 4, 2000

The United States says it is disturbed by Beijing's latest crackdown on the Falun Gong movement, as US-based supporters of the banned group lashed out at President Jiang Zemin.

"We find very disturbing reports of China's use of increasingly harsh tactics to repress the Falun Gong spiritual movement," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said on Monday.

"We will continue to call upon the Chinese government to uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments to respect those rights," Mr Reeker said.

Police have maintained tight surveillance on Tiananmen Square after protests by the group marred National Day celebrations.

At least 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested on Sunday, with a small army of soldiers and police dragging protesters from the square into buses and vans as tourists watched in shock.

In the US, Falun Gong spokeswoman Gail Rachlin accused Mr Jiang of launching a personal crusade against the movement out of fears of political insecurity. "He is insecure...and lashing out," she said.

Ms Rachlin said reports from mainland practitioners, spoke of a "massive reign of terror, including a dramatic increase in brutality and illegal searches and seizures".

In Bangkok, Thai foreign ministry deputy spokesman Oum Moalanond said the country did not oppose a visit by some 60 senior members of the Falun Gong this week but would not tolerate the group staging any political activities.

Mr Oum said the mainland asked the Thai authorities to "monitor" the group's activities last year.

Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan later also admitted he had previously discussed the Falun Gong with mainland officials, but said there had been no talks surrounding the current visit.

However, the group's Thai co-ordinator Noppadol Ekbutr said that the practitioners were photographed by police while in Bangkok.

"Police have taken photographs of them during their training sessions here," Mr Noppadol said.

Twenty members returned to Taipei yesterday, while the remainder of the group would spend the rest of the week in the northern province of Chiang Rai, he said.

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