Protests by Banned China Group Wane

Associated Press, July 25, 1999

BEIJING (AP) - Protests by an outlawed meditation group waned under a Chinese government crackdown that continued with more arrests Sunday.

About a dozen protesters from the group, Falun Gong, were held at a park across the street from the Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing, where President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese leaders live. An empty city bus and police vans were parked nearby, possibly to carry away more detainees.

Dozens of police patrolled outside the compound but no longer stopped pedestrians from walking past it. Police numbers were smaller than earlier in the week, when up to 30,000 protesters gathered in Beijing and other cities. Thousands of people were detained at the quiet, peaceful protests.

China's communist leaders banned Falun Gong on Thursday, saying it ``tried to develop political power.'' Protests had erupted late Tuesday after authorities reportedly arrested up to 70 leading sect members throughout China.

Falun Gong leaders have denied any political ambitions and say they didn't organize the protests.

The clash with authorities began April 25, when at least 10,000 believers surrounded Zhongnanhai in a silent protest of what they said was official harassment.

China doesn't allow independent religious or political groups for fear they would organize public anger over job losses and corruption. Beijing is especially intent on crushing dissent before the 50th anniversary on Oct. 1 of the start of communist rule. Scores of political and labor activists have been arrested since last year.

Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former soldier and government clerk who lives in the United States. Its doctrines draw on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism. The group says its goals are physical and mental fitness, and are not religious.

Chinese leaders are especially nervous about Falun Gong because of its vast size. The government said at one point it had up to 70 million members, compared with 60 million in the ruling Communist Party. Most Falun Gong members are middle-aged and older, and many are women.

A barrage of attacks by state media has accused Falun Gong of defrauding and abusing followers, and has blamed it for 16 deaths. State television has repeatedly shown graphic pictures of what it claimed were members who killed or mutilated themselves.

Falun Gong has denied any connection to deaths of members who Li said may have been ill or mentally unstable.

On Saturday, dozens of Falun Gong members protested outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington by performing their daily meditation.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.