China accuses Falun Gong leader of plotting massive protest

Associated Press, August 12, 1999

BEIJING -- China's state media stepped up attacks on the founder of a banned meditation group Thursday, accusing him of planning and directing a large protest outside the Chinese leadership's Beijing headquarters.

In a possible sign that authorities may put other group leaders on trial, state-run television also singled out several Falun Gong organizers for their involvement in the silent, daylong protest by more than 10,000 followers seeking legal recognition.

Li Hongzhi, the group's New York-based founder, has denied organizing the April protest. China has issued an arrest warrant for him, although the United States has said it will not extradite Li because the two countries have no extradition treaty.

State television, in a lengthy expose in its nationwide evening news show, described the April protest as the "most serious political incident'' to hit China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that the government crushed.

The protest was designed "to put pressure on the party and the government and try to disrupt the whole nation,'' the television report said. "Li Hongzhi was the planner and commander,'' it said.

The report also named and showed other leading members of the group. Although it did not say whether charges were being considered, it said sect organizers held meetings to plan the protest and carried out Li's directives.

One of those named was Ji Liewu, who "took part in planning, organizing, and directing the whole process,'' the report said. Also frequently mentioned were Wang Zhiwen and Li Chang, who are believed to be under arrest.

Falun Gong draws from Buddhism, Taoism and qigong, a traditional martial arts and health practice. Many of its followers are middle-aged or older people, including some Communist officials and their family members.

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