China intensifies crackdown on cults


Reuters, November 2, 1999

BEIJING, Nov 2, 1999 (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have arrested the leaders of two martial arts groups as part of its war on cults, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday.

They declared two groups to be cults -- Cibei Gong in the industrial city of Wuhan in central China and Guo Gong in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

Both were born out of qigong, a school of martial arts based on breathing exercises designed to harness inner energy and to heal.

Last week, the government declared Falun Gong, one of China's biggest qigong groups, a cult and stepped up a harsh crackdown on the group.

The National People's Congress, or parliament, passed legislation at the weekend that promises stiff jail terms for cult leaders.

Xiao Yun, the founder of Cibei Gong which has about 1,000 members, was arrested on October 27 and accused of defrauding followers of 70,000 yuan ($8,400), the centre said.

Three leaders of Guo Gong were arrested on October 25, it said without giving further details.

Since April, the government has declared four Protestant groups cults and rounded up more than 50 people in four provinces, the centre said. It gave no further details.

The government was not immediately available for comment.

Falun Gong claims more than 100 million members nationwide. The government says two million in China is a more accurate figure.

It stunned the government in April when more than 10,000 of its members emerged without warning to stage a silent sit-down protest outside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing.

Its U.S.-based founder Li Hongzhi preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science, technology, and decadence.

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