China Renews Fight Against Falun Gong

BEIJING – The very “prosperity and stability” of modern China is at stake in the battle against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, the communist government in Beijing is warning as it promises to renew the fight.

In a lengthy commentary carried late Sunday night on the official Xinhua News Agency, authorities called for a “fight until the end” against Falun Gong, which has repeatedly angered the government in recent months by hacking into Chinese television satellite signals and broadcasting its own messages.

“We should be fully aware that the fight will be long, arduous and complicated, and therefore, we must be vigilant against the Falun Gong cult and should in no way relax our efforts,” it said.

It also accused Falun Gong practitioners overseas of impeding China’s fight against SARS by “instigating followers at home to block the epidemic prevention” – a charge the movement denies. Xinhua did not elaborate.

China’s leadership fears any organization that challenges its authority – particularly a group that offers spirituality, something the Communist Party is unable to offer. Falun Gong, for its part, has chosen activities that are certain to anger Beijing, such as demonstrating in the politically sensitive Tiananmen Square, the visual centerpiece of Chinese communism.

There was no indication why the Chinese government chose now to distribute the commentary. But Levi Browde, a New York-based Falun Gong spokesman, suggested it was linked to recent lawsuits filed in several countries against retired President Jiang Zemin and other top Chinese leaders.

“The purpose of this latest propaganda is to try to thwart some of the reality of what’s happening in the world’s courtrooms,” Browde said in a telephone interview.

The government banned Falun Gong in 1999, calling it an “evil cult.” It has since arrested hundreds if not thousands of followers, and practitioners allege many have been tortured and in some cases murdered. The government denies killing anyone, but says some detainees have died from hunger strikes or refusing medical attention.

Xinhua said the fight against the movement is imperative “in order to ensure the prosperity and stability of the nation as well as the safe and comfortable lives of the public.”

“More and more people have come to see through the anti-scientific, anti-human and anti-social nature of the cult and have devoted themselves to the struggle,” Xinhua said. “Meanwhile, most of the former Falun Gong followers have shaken off the cult’s spiritual control through re-education and have resumed normal life.”

On several occasions, most recently last month, the government says Falun Gong interfered with TV signals transmitted via China’s Sinosat communications satellite.

The Falun Gong movement has attracted millions of followers with a mix of traditional Chinese calisthenics and doctrines drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese government clerk.

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