Beijing -- Four Falun Gong members have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for breaking into cable television systems in western China to broadcast videos promoting the banned spiritual group, a court official said Wednesday.
The group was sentenced Dec. 30 by the Xining Intermediate People's Court, according to the official, who gave only his surname, Zhang. Xining is the capital of Qinghai province, which borders Tibet and is one of China's poorest regions.
China banned the Falun Gong in 1999 as a threat to public safety and communist rule. The group had attracted millions of followers with a mix of slow-motion exercise and doctrines drawn from Buddhism and Taoism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi, a former government clerk.
Over the past year, Falun Gong members have staged a series of television break-ins to show videos criticizing the ban and proclaiming the group's good intentions.
They targeted cable television systems in at least four cities _ mostly in eastern and central China--and also were accused by the communist government of twice hijacking a satellite signal.
In Xining, Falun Gong member Zhang Rongjuan and three other people were sentenced to between seven and 20 years, according to Zhang, the court official. He wouldn't give other details or the identities of other defendants.
But a state newspaper said the break-ins occurred in Xining and Lanzhou, capital of neighboring Gansu province.
The incidents occurred in July and August, said the Jiancha Daily, published by China's top prosecutors' office.
It identified the other defendants as He Wanji, Li Chongfeng and Duan Xiaoyan.