Falun Gong leaders arrested

South China Morning Post, July 21, 1999
By Michelle Chak and Agencies

Mainland public security authorities have detained 70 leaders of the Buddhist cult Falun Gong in a nationwide crackdown that began early yesterday, group sources said.

The round-up came after more than 13,000 members of the sect called on leaders in an open letter last month to stop suppressing them, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said.

The Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China listed the names of 55 people - from Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Taiyuan in the north, to Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces in the northeast - who had been taken from their homes by police.

Officers confiscated literature on the cult and busts of sect leader Li Hongzhi from the homes of members during the operation, Falun Gong sources said.

Police in Dalian, Liaoning province, beat up some of the 2,000 Falun Gong members who went to local government offices to protest against the move, a US-based senior group member, Ye Hao, claimed.

Seven Falun Gong leaders were detained by police in Dalian, he said.

A Dalian city government official said the Falun Gong members had dispersed and headed for the city's petition bureau.

In Beijing, Li Chang, one of the group's representatives who met leaders following massive protests outside the Communist Party headquarters in April, had been detained, Mr Ye said.

He added that those detained, including Ji Liewu and Tang Xuehua in Beijing, were senior Falun Gong members.

In Beijing, up to 150 police were posted along roads around the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing last night.

At least 15 people were stopped by police and taken away in vans.

In Taiyuan, in the northern province of Shanxi, provincial government officials talked to about 2,000 Falun Gong members who turned up at the city government offices, Mr Ye said.

In Hong Kong, about 100 people gathered outside the Xinhua office in Happy Valley to submit a protest letter.

"We demanded the immediate release of all those arrested," said Kan Hung-cheung, who organised the petition.

Falun Gong, which claims up to 100 million members, mixes Buddhist and Taoist philosophies with Chinese deep breathing exercises known as qi gong.

Police in Beijing and elsewhere declined to confirm reports of the arrests.

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