BEIJING -- The Chinese military yesterday rallied in support of the ban imposed by the central government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the controversial Falungong sect, pledging to safeguard the stability and unity of the armed forces.
Security was very tight in Beijing yesterday, with around 1,000 uniformed and plainclothes officers deployed around Tiananmen Square alone at one point during the day. A cordon was also set up around Zhongnanhai, the seat of the CCP.
In a despatch, the official Xinhua news agency cited a joint statement issued by the four headquarters of the People's Liberation Army, namely, the General Staff Department, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armament Department, that lauded the ban as "extremely timely, very correct and that adequately reflects the will of the party, the people and the military".
Both the Chinese government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party announced that the Falungong sect was an illegal organisation two days ago and prohibited all activities of the group.
The PLA, pledging loyalty to the party, described the sect as a force for social calamity and said that a firm struggle must be waged against "those who would harm reform and development, damage the socialist system or harm the leadership of the party".
In a show of defiance, thousands of Falungong followers, mainly from other provinces, tried but were stopped from entering Beijing on Thursday evening. They had sought to protest against the ban, announced several hours earlier.
The public security forces blocked them off at Shijingshan and Fengtai stadiums in the capital.
Mr Li Bing, deputy director of the information office of the State Council, told reporters that most of them had been released by yesterday morning. Despite the detentions, several hundred Falungong followers yesterday morning staged a sit-down demonstration in Tiananmen Square, the heart of the capital.
Public security officers rounded them up, put them onto buses and had them driven off.
The authorities then imposed a curfew on Tiananmen Square for several hours, but re-opened it to the public by 3 pm.
A tour of some of Beijing's parks early yesterday found no one practising Falungong, which mixes Taoist and Buddhist teachings and includes a form of exercise drawing on inner energy.
According to sources, Falungong practitioners could not be seen in public parks by Thursday evening, soon after the ban was announced. Some had been warned off earlier.
For instance, the group of followers which used to carry out daily fitness routines in front of the Friendship Store along Jianguomenwai Avenue have failed to show up for morning exercises for the last two weeks.
Separately, the Ministry of Civil Affairs sought to reassure the population by reiterating that a distinction would be made between ordinary religious beliefs and normal physical exercises and those of the Falungong sect.
Vice-Minister Li Baoku said that the overwhelming majority of Falungong followers had been misled by the sect leaders, and that "education, persuasion and guidance" were necessary to help them break away from the sect.
Yesterday, the government kept up its media propaganda against the sect with more accounts of those who had been harmed by the group's teachings.
Apart from the military, the authorities also cranked up a show of support for the ban from a cross-section of the public, including political parties and workers' unions.
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