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China warns of tougher measures against Falun Gong
Government says sect part of global anti-China movement
Previously, the administration of President Jiang Zemin had branded the Buddhist meditation group as an "illegal organization" and an "evil cult".
A source close to the security establishment in Beijing said Jiang and other politburo members had late last year reached the conclusion that the Falun Gong was part of a global anti-Chinese movement.
In internal speeches, Jiang and Politburo member in charge of law and order Luo Gan said that there was evidence the sect had "colluded" with anti-Beijing forces at home and abroad. They said this included pro-democracy organizations in and out of China, groups seeking independence for Taiwan and Tibet, as well as "anti-Chinese" political organizations and personalities in the United States.
While these internal speeches have not been made public, the official media have since early this month run several hard-hitting commentaries against the Falun Gong. Xinhua news agency said the sect had received strong support from certain anti-Chinese forces in the West, as well as enemy forces such as the "Taiwan independence movement" and the "pro-democracy’ movement."
Human rights watchdogs have estimated that some 30,000 Falun Gong members have been detained since the sect first infuriated authorities by staging a siege of the Zhongnanhai party headquarters in Beijing in April 1999. Treatment of detained sect members, many of whom were released after a few days in jail, had been relatively lenient until the middle of last year.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported that so far, about 100 detained sect members had died in prison and most of the deaths took place in the second half of 2000.
In 1999 and early 2000, police authorities handled Falun Gong affiliates with relative care, said a Western diplomat who monitors Beijing's treatment of the quasi-religious movement. Policemen were told to prevent detainees from committing suicide, lest they become martyrs.
The diplomat added that from autumn 2000, the tactics hardened. Long jail terms began to be meted out. Last week, three activists were given jail sentences of up to six years for distributing leaflets, a relatively minor offense.
The diplomat estimated that up to 10,000 practitioners had been sent to reform-through-labor camps, which are administered outside of the judicial system. The security source said Beijing hoped the long sentences in jail and reform-through-labor camps would mean sect practitioners could not so easily mix with “anti-Beijing forces” such as pro-democracy or foreign groups.
He said the tactics were expected to toughen after the demonstration of several hundred followers in Tiananmen Square on January 1 – and protests in Macau and Hong Kong.
Beijing’s latest worry is that a number of America-based academics and politicians have nominated founder sect Li Hongzhi for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
While the chances for Li getting the prize are not great, this further proves, in Beijing's eyes, the existence of an "international conspiracy" to embarrass China and to sow dissension within the leadership.
Apart from the police, members of the People’s Liberation Army and particularly the para-military People’s Armed Police have been given instructions to deal harshly with the Falun Gong.
More arrests of sect leaders and members are expected.
Moreover, social groups, including religious organizations under the party’s control, have been asked to hold special meetings in the coming weeks to voice public support for the government’s tough line on the Falun Gong.
Head of the Party's Publicity Department Ding Guan’gen also called on the media to be prepared to wage a "long-term and
This analysis was written for CNN Interactive
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