Sat, Mar 09, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Novel Falun Gong TV stunt angers Chinese authorities


Officials in China have launched a fresh drive to crush the banned Falun Gong spiritual group after it hijacked state television to show a protest film, a local newspaper said yesterday.

Jilin provincial and city officials held an emergency meeting to step up their campaign against what the government calls an "evil cult" after Falun Gong adherents hacked into cable television lines in Changchun, the Changchun Daily said.

The protest during China's parliament session was one of the most daring and novel by the group whose once regular demonstrations on Tiananmen Square have petered out after the government sent thousands of followers to "re-education" camps.

Foreign Falun Gong members have continued those protests -- including seven Australians detained for demonstrating on the square on Thursday -- but Chinese followers appear to have changed their tactics.

Changchun and Jilin officials vowed to "organize elite forces, strike hard against Falun Gong's illegal activities and punish followers according to the law, with no leniency", the Changchun Daily said.

They ordered security officials to "take concrete effective measures, leaving no missing link, no stone unturned," it said.

Changchun police had detained one suspect and found broadcasting equipment at two points where cable television lines had been cut, it said. Another suspect escaped.

Falun Gong said in a statement from New York that Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) had ordered authorities to execute those responsible for the Changchun incident and other prominent Falun Gong activists following the television protest.

Changchun broadcasts were interrupted on Tuesday evening by footage of Falun Gong's US-based leader, Li Hongzhi (李洪志) and a film accusing the government of staging a self-immolation by alleged adherents in Tiananmen Square last year, locals have said.

The footage lasted about 50 minutes before normal state television programming resumed, one viewer said.

Changchun, a city of 1.3 million people, is Li's home town and thousands of people there remain faithful to the self-styled spiritual leader, locals said.

The television protest was an apparent bid to hit back against a state media campaign against the group, focusing on the self-immolations in which a 12-year-old girl and her mother died.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, denies they were true adherents and accuses the government of setting up the incident.

"Jiang's persecution of Falun Gong survives on an arsenal of lies and deceit and the biggest weapon is the propaganda surrounding the self-immolation incident," said Levi Browde, spokesman for the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York.

"It's the most potent and demonizing of the lies," he said.

Browde was among several Western followers expelled from China last month for protesting against the government crackdown.

Yesterday, China expelled at least seven Australian adherents for staging a similar demonstration in Tiananmen Square, a spokesman for the group said.

They were put on a plane to Singapore after being held overnight for the protest near Beijing's Great Hall of the People where the National People's Congress is holding its annual two-week session, he said.

"One of those detained left a message saying all the Australians were put on a plane headed for Singapore," Australia-based Falun Gong practitioner Chris Cominos said by telephone. They would travel on to Australia, he said.

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