China Sentences Falun Gong Member to Death

Reuters/August 22, 2001

Beijing -- A court in southwest China sentenced a member of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group to death Wednesday for murdering a fellow villager who refused to help him commit suicide, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The Liuzhou District Intermediate People's Court in the southwestern region of Guangxi found Lan Yunchang from Rongan county guilty of killing fellow villager, Wei Shaoming, and sentenced him to death with a two-year reprieve, Xinhua said.

Such death sentences are often commuted to life imprisonment depending on the prisoner's behavior.

Branding Lan a "diehard" Falun Gong adherent, Xinhua said he killed Wei with an axe on April 16 after the latter refused to give him arsenic to help him commit suicide. Lan turned himself into police the day after, it said.

The sentence came just days after 45 alleged Falun Gong organizers were sentenced in Beijing to up to 13 years in prison for organizing protests, making banners and printing leaflets in defiance of a government ban.

Falun Gong says more than 50,000 practitioners have been sent to prisons, labor camps and mental hospitals since China banned the group in 1999. Human rights groups estimate some 200 Falun Gong adherents have died from torture during detention in China.

China says the group is trying to overthrow the Communist Party and has caused the death of at least 1,800 people by suicide or refusal of medical treatment.

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