China Destroys Sect's Literature

Associated Press, July 28, 1999
By Renee Schoof

BEIJING (AP) - Piles of tapes crunched by bulldozers. Mounds of books shoveled onto conveyor belts and dumped into swirling vats of pulp.

These scenes on today's evening news in China showed the government's determination to wipe out the words of the leader of Falun Gong, a popular meditation group banned last week as a threat to communist rule.

In an unusual move, the government-controlled TV news in recent days has expanded its evening program from 30 minutes to about 60 and devoted nearly all of the shows to a single topic - denouncing Falun Gong.

Falun Gong, founded by China-born Li Hongzhi, who now lives in the United States, draws on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism. The group says its goals are physical and mental fitness and high moral standards, and denies it has any religious or political role.

The ruling Communist Party, however, saw the group as a challenge to its monopoly on power and a threat from inside. Communist Party members openly participated in Falun Gong's meditation and exercises before the ban was ordered on Thursday.

Large amounts of the group founder's materials have been confiscated nationwide. The state-run Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday gave examples: more than 73,000 books in Tianjin, a port city near Beijing; 130,000 books and 27,000 audio and video tapes in Wuhan, a major industrial city in central China; and 3,200 books and thousands of tapes in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang in the country's far west.

Today's TV news included footage of party members condemning the group. One of them, an unidentified woman, said, "We don't believe in Falun Gong. Our belief is in Marxism.''

The party's main newspaper, People's Daily, said today that Li preached that the Earth would explode and that he had power no government could match.

"He deceived a lot of people by deifying himself with the aim of taking the place of the government and rule the world,'' it said and went on to accuse Li of having an "evil aim of developing Falun Gong into a political force'' that could be used against the ruling party.

Until the ban, Falun Gong was one of many schools of qigong, a traditional practice that uses exercise, meditation and attempts to channel unseen forces to improve health. Qigong has been hugely popular in China for decades.

An official estimate said 70 million people in China practiced Falun Gong before the ban, but later government reports put the group's membership at 2 million.


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