Beijing -- China has again tightened its laws against the Falun Gong spiritual movement, highlighting the government's difficulties in stamping out the group after banning it nearly two years ago.
A legal directive issued by Chinese judicial authorities and announced today by the official New China News Agency marked a further hardening in the crackdown on Falun Gong, which the government considers a dangerous cult.
Under the directive, which goes into effect Monday, courts can prosecute Falun Gong practitioners for intentional wounding or murder, or for organizing, encouraging or helping other followers commit suicide or injure themselves. That clause was designed to prevent incidents like the one in which five people set themselves on fire at Tiananmen Square in January, the news agency said.
The government said the five -- two of whom died -- were Falun Gong adherents, a claim the group disputed. The new legal directive also targeted Falun Gong practitioners who have defied the government by distributing pamphlets and information about the group and the crackdown. Followers can be prosecuted under subversion laws if they produce or distribute anti-government materials, the news agency said.
Public protests by Falun Gong practitioners have declined in recent months, but adherents continue to surreptitiously distribute Falun Gong materials. Followers have also scrawled Falun Gong graffiti and hung banners in public places and posted information on the Internet, including the names and phone numbers of police and prison officers they accuse of beating or killing detained practitioners.
Falun Gong, which claims millions of adherents, says that it is a peaceful spiritual cultivation movement with no political agenda and that its teachings forbid killing, including suicide.