China accuses Falun Gong of breaching human rights

Reuters/February 17, 2001

Beijing -- China, battling Western human rights criticism of its ruthless crackdown on the outlawed Falun Gong, said on Saturday another self-immolation by a purported adherent showed it was the movement which breached human rights.

The suicide showed Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi's alleged exhortation to followers "not to be afraid of dying in order to achieve 'nirvana' is absolute heresy that violates human rights," the People's Daily said.

"Cherish your life and don't be victims of Falun Gong any longer," the Communist Party newspaper said in a commentary.

State media said a member of the spiritual movement set himself ablaze on Friday in a Beijing neighbourhood that is home to several Communist Party leaders.

State television showed police lifting the charred body of a man it said set fire to his gasoline-soaked clothing. It said a six-page suicide note linked the man to Falun Gong.

It identified the dead man as Tan Yihui, a 25-year-old shoe-polisher from the central province of Hunan. "He poured a container of gasoline on his head, flicked a lighter and burst into flames," it quoted a witness as saying.

Falun Gong said in a statement it could not verify if the man was a member. "We are extremely sad and shocked to hear (of) the death of a Chinese citizen who was said to have set fire to himself in Beijing. So far, we have no way to verify this person's background," the group said.

It restated its tenet that it is against Falun Gong teachings to take human life, and that includes suicide. The movement reacted similarly to the first self-immolation, by five purported Falun Gong adherents who included a 12-year-old girl, in Tiananmen Square last month. One woman, the girl's mother, died.


Major Campaign

The Chinese leadership banned Falun Gong as an "evil cult" in 1999 and has launched a major campaign to denigrate it across the country.

It compares the Falun Gong to Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo, or Supreme Truth, accused of deadly gas attacks on a Tokyo subway, and the U.S. Branch Davidian sect whose stand-off with authorities ended in a deadly blaze in Waco, Texas. "Self-immolation by burning oneself is one of the most notorious characteristics of the evil cults," the People's Daily said.

Falun Gong, which is based on elements of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese meditation and exercises, says none of the Chinese accusations is true, that it is a non-political movement aimed only at improving people.

The latest purported Falun Gong suicide took place four days before International Olympic Committee officials are due in Beijing to evaluate the city's bid for the 2008 Games.

Beijing narrowly lost out to Sydney in the race to stage the 2000 Games, in part because of its human rights record.

The pressure on China is likely to mount with the new U.S. administration of George W. Bush deciding to sponsor a U.N. resolution condemning China on human rights next month.

Administration officials said on Friday the formal paperwork authorising the resolution was still being completed, but the decision had been made to present it at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.