China Holds More in Sect Crackdown

The Associated Press, July 30, 1999
By John Leicester

BEIJING (AP) - Police beat a man on Friday outside a Chinese compound where leaders live and work, and authorities detained at least 20 people in a stepped-up campaign to crush a banned meditation sect.

The arrests and beating came outside Zhongnanhai, the tightly guarded headquarters of the Communist Party and central government. Police also blocked pedestrians from passing by the compound's gold and red imperial gate.

The compound had been the focus of earlier protests by followers of Falun Gong, the meditation group the government banned last week as a threat to its authority.

The man who was beaten fought back with fists as police officers hit him, one with a wooden pole and the other with his fists. One officer had blood on his neck, and the man's face appeared swollen. The man, who was not identified, was eventually bundled onto a bus.

At least 20 other detainees were held in a bus, transferred to vans and then driven away.

As part of their escalating crackdown, authorities destroyed more than 2 million confiscated Falun Gong publications, videos and cassettes on Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China also issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Li Hongzhi, the leader of the group who now lives in New York. The government accused Li of staging unauthorized protests and spreading superstition.

It was not immediately clear if China planned to ask for Li to be extradited. But the U.S. State Department said it would not turn him over because the two countries have no extradition treaty.

Falun Gong said in a statement that the government charges against Li were groundless, and that the arrest order was ``based upon fabricated materials.'' It urged the United States to protect the safety and security of Li and his family.

Li, who founded Falun Gong in 1992, has denied government accusations of having political ambitions. He also has denied organizing protests, including one that drew 10,000 followers to the leadership compound in April.

Falun Gong is one of many schools of qigong, a traditional practice intended to improve health through exercise, mediation and attempts to channel unseen forces. Falun Gong's teachings draw on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism.

Falun Gong treats illness as a result of evil in a past life and discourages the use of medicines.

China has said the group is to blame for 743 deaths within the group. But Li denied any connection to the deaths, saying those who died may already have been ill or unstable.

The government has said the group had 2 million followers, considerably less than its earlier membership count of 70 million - 9 million more than the Communist Party.

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