Shanghai, China - Leading members of the Falun Gong were simultaneously officials of the Chinese Communist Party, Beijing admitted yesterday as the crackdown on supporters of the banned spiritual movement continued.
Official sources said the Falun Gong's mass demonstration three months ago, which triggered the ban, was led by two government cadres.
Party members are described as "core elements" of the Falun Gong in a commentary published in the People's Daily newspaper today. The newspaper says this has created "a serious problem" for the party.
Police were said to have identified Wang Zhiwen, a retired Railways Ministry official, and Wang Youqun, a deputy division chief of the Ministry of Supervision, as ringleaders of the Falun Gong's April 24 demonstration in Beijing.
The leader of the movement, Li Hongzhi, 48, who lives in Flushing, claims he enjoyed government support in the early 1990s. He says that he lectured to the Public Security Academy in Beijing and received official testimonials.
Documents from Li suggest the Falun Gong was tolerated officially as long as it agreed to function under a government umbrella organization for popular health and sports movements. It came under criticism when it withdrew from the organization in 1996.
Yesterday, police were out in force checking the credentials of anyone suspected of being a Falun Gong supporter in Tiananmen Square and at railway stations in Beijing and nationwide. There were reports of further arrests.
Most of the thousands of cult members detained will be released, government sources said, after they have promised to leave the organization.
Beijing's ongoing propaganda offensive against the Falun Gong (the "Art of the Wheel of Buddhist Law") and Li presents it as a dangerous cult that must be banned to protect "social stability." A dossier of 16 suicides, murders and mental illnesses, issued by the New China News Agency, seeks to demonstrate the "dire consequences" of belief in Li's art.
Li has issued a rebuttal from self-imposed exile in the United States, on the Web site run by supporters abroad. He says that he advises the mentally ill not to study his works and that anyone who disobeys him and dies should not be called his disciple.
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