China tightens legal screws on Falun Gong

Reuters/June 11, 2001

Beijing -- China's top legal bodies have launched an exhaustive new legal attack against Falun Gong, the government's latest effort to squash the resilient spiritual movement, state media reported on Monday.

A directive issued on Sunday by the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate outlined the specific legal conditions for prosecuting those involved in activities on behalf of the movement, which China banned as an evil cult in 1999.

The directive, published in the official People's Daily newspaper, allows practitioners who organise, incite, and abet others in committing suicide to be prosecuted for murder.

The People's Daily report referred explicitly to the self-immolations of purported Falun Gong followers in Tiananmen Square in January. Two of the five people who lit their petrol-soaked clothes on fire died.

China identified the victims as Falun Gong believers and said they were encouraged by group leaders to burn themselves, claims the group has denied.

The directive also uses laws against state subversion and separatism to crack down on those distributing materials, organising meetings and attacking state organisations.

In March, top Chinese law officials made ending their activities a top priority for the year, branding Falun Gong a "social cancer."

At a time when the group's most vocal protests are based outside China, the directive -- the second of its kind -- sends a clear message that Beijing is determined to uproot adherents who remain on Chinese soil, analysts said.


"New Plots" Cited

After more than a year of stubborn protests, Falun Gong followers have been largely dormant inside China this year. Adherents have staged noisy demonstrations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and in Western countries.

In an interview with the official news agency Xinhua published on Monday, a spokeperson for the legal bodies blamed forces abroad, including New York-based founder Li Hongzhi, for "constantly devising new plots... to carry out various kinds of illegal criminal activities."

Since banning the Falun Gong two years ago, China has issued laws making "evil cults" illegal.

Human rights groups abroad say thousands of members have been sent to "re-education through labour" camps without trial since the crackdown on Falun Gong began.

But the government's campaign had failed to eradicate the movement, and some local officials have been held responsible for flare-ups of protest in their districts.

Falun Gong preaches health and salvation from a corrupt world through meditation and the study of texts based loosely on Buddhism and Taoism.

China says Falun Gong cheats its members and has been responsible for the deaths of 1,660 people by suicide or refusing medical treatment.

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