Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 1 News List

China vows `war to the end' on Falun Gong

CRACKDOWN Fed up with protests by the banned meditation sect, Beijing has pledged to defeat the group and again slammed the West for interfering

REUTERS , BEIJING

Teenagers in Nanning, capital of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, sign a poster on Sunday denouncing Falun Gong.

PHOTO: AP

In a fresh salvo of sharp anti-Falun Gong rhetoric, China's Communist Party vowed yesterday to "fight the war to the end" against the outlawed spiritual group.

"The Chinese government will fight the war to the end in a bid to safeguard the reform and opening-up, the socialist modernization drive and the hard-won social stability," the People's Daily said in a commentary.

And in an apparent slap at countries that have condemned human rights abuses reported in the 19-month-long crackdown, the party's official newspaper said "Western anti-China masters" were behind Falun Gong's repeated public protests.

The commentary -- part of a mass propaganda campaign sparked by self-immolation attempts last month by five people who China says were sect members -- said Falun Gong teachings inspired a failed bombing attempt at Tiananmen Square last year.

"After receiving the message, a crazy Falun Gong follower armed with explosives went to the square and was ready to ignite himself on April 5, 2000. His deadly attempt was foiled by patrolling police," it said.

It was not clear why China, which promptly reported last month's self-immolations and used them to discredit the sect, waited 10 months to publicize the would-be bomber.

Falun Gong members have protested almost daily in Tiananmen Square since the movement was outlawed in 1999 and China's often harsh treatment of protesters has provoked widespread international concern.

Human rights groups say more than 100 Falun Gong followers have died of police beatings and other abuse, while the sect says tens of thousands of its mainland members have been sent to labor camps without trial.

On Sunday, visiting Prime Minister Jean Chretien voiced Canada's concern about the crackdown in talks with Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基), Canadian officials said.

Last month, Ottawa lobbied for the release of Falun Gong adherent Zhang Kunlun, a 60-year-old sculpture professor who emerged after five months in a Shandong province labor camp saying he suffered electrical shock torture and had feared he would be killed.

Replying to Chretien, Zhu repeated China's position that the movement which combines Taoism and Buddhism with traditional Chinese exercises was an "evil cult" that duped followers and threatened social stability.

Last week, Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen postponed a visit to China after Beijing sharply criticized his plan to meet members of the Falun Gong in Hong Kong.

The Dutch said they resented China's meddling in Van Aartsen's agenda.

Falun Gong is legal in Hong Kong. Last week Hong Kong's government said it would step up monitoring of the activities of Falun Gong's estimated 400 to 500 members in the territory.

Hong Kong's autonomy and rule of law would suffer a severe blow if it gave in to growing pressure from Beijing to ban the sect, scholars and human rights activists said on Saturday.

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