Girl in Tiananmen suicide bid dies of injuries

AFP/March 18, 2001

Beijing -- A 12-year-old girl who set herself alight in Beijing's Tiananmen Square along with four apparent members of China's banned Falungong sect has died of her injuries, Chinese television announced Sunday.

Liu Siying succumbed to her burns Saturday night at the capital's Jishuitan hospital after two months of treatment, according to the main national news program.

On January 23, the eve of the Chinese New Year, the girl was doused in gasoline and set on fire in the immense square in the center of the capital along with four other members of the Buddhist-inspire sect, one man and three women.

Her mother, Liu Chungling, died at the scene while the others were hospitalized. The Falungong, banned as an "evil cult," has denied the five were members since it condemns suicide, and accuses the Chinese regime of using the case to manipulate public opinion.

The presence of the girl among the victims unleashed a emotional outpouring, while the state media seized on the event to launch a fresh propaganda offensive against the sect, which has defied the regime for two years.

The television program showed close-ups of the young girl's badly burned face. Three weeks after the group suicide attempt, a 25-year-old man also died from self-immolation on a western Beijing street.

Beijing also claims he was a member of the Falungong and has accused the sect's guru, Li Hongzhi, who lives in exile in the United States, of destroying the lives of his followers.

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