Falun Gong Supporters on Trial

AP, Sep. 19, 2002

BEIJING (AP) _ Fifteen supporters of the banned Falun Gong group have gone on trial on charges of breaking into a cable television system in March to show protest videos in two Chinese cities, a court spokesman said Thursday.

The March 5 incident marked the start of a campaign by Falun Gong supporters who have hijacked television signals in at least four areas to show videos opposing China’s 3-year-old crackdown on the spiritual group.

The trial started Wednesday in the northeastern city of Changchun, said the spokesman for the city’s Intermediate-Level People’s Court. He said a verdict was expected next week but didn’t know what penalties the defendants might face. The spokesman would give only his surname, Fang.

The broadcast in Changchun and nearby Songyuan criticized the 1999 ban on the group, according to residents who saw it.

They said it included scenes of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese government employee who lives in the United States.

The defendants in Changchun are charged with breaking anti-cult laws and broadcast regulations, said the court spokesman.

The defendants, most of them unemployed, include two engineers with backgrounds in electronics, said Li Shichang, a police spokesman in Changchun.

China banned Falun Gong in mid-1999 on the grounds that the multimillion-member group threatened public safety and communist rule.

An often-brutal crackdown has stripped the group of much of its public following.

Falun Gong activists abroad say hundreds of supporters have been killed in detention. Chinese officials acknowledge that some have died, but blame the deaths on hunger strikes or members’ refusal of medical attention.

The television break-ins have embarrassed the government, which denounces the broadcasts as “reactionary propaganda” and says they threaten social order.

In June, a state-run satellite system briefly displayed messages of support for Falun Gong in a TV broadcast after its signal was hijacked.

The government has responded by announcing measures aimed at tightening control of television and satellite systems.

A senior official in June referred to Falun Gong sympathizers who have taken over broadcasts as “skilled and professional.”

Falun Gong sympathizers also have used e-mail and the Internet to spread protest messages, and clandestinely post flyers in Chinese cities.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 20, 2002.
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