China sect urges Beijing stop suppression

June 24, 1999

HONG KONG, June 24, 1999 (Reuters) - More than 13,000 members from a quasi-religious sect in China have called on Chinese leaders to stop suppressing them, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Thursday.

In an open letter, the Falun Gong sect members urged Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji to allow them to practice their faith openly and end a ban on books about the sect, the Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China said.

In April over 10,000 members of the sect shocked the Chinese government by encircling the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing and staging a peaceful protest to demand official status for their faith.

China's atheist Communist Party, apparently alarmed by the sect's protest, said on Monday that ``superstition'' must be stamped out.

The sect's cult-like U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, bars followers from consulting doctors when ill and says they could be cured by reading his books, which are banned in China.

Li preaches salvation from an immoral world on the brink of destruction, rails against homosexuality, rock and roll and drugs and blames science for evil in the world.

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