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The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing
"Such an extreme demonstration would be a dramatic change for the outlawed group"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 16:50 GMT
China shows Falun Gong 'suicide'
12-year-old burns victim treated in hospital
One of the victims China says is a Falun Gong member

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing

Chinese television has for the first time broadcast television pictures of a multiple suicide attempt on Beijing's Tiananmen Square by a group of people alleged to be members of the outlawed spiritual group, Falun Gong.

In a special half-hour broadcast, state television showed graphic footage of last week's self-imolations by the five alleged Falun Gong followers.

It also showed heart-rending pictures of one of the victims - a 12 year-old girl lying on a hospital bed, her face and hands swathed in bandages.

According to the report, the girl's mother - a long-time follower of Falun Gong - had told her daughter she would feel no pain from the flames, but would be transported immediately to paradise.

Public support

The young girl's pain and suffering, however gruesome, are powerful ammunition for the Chinese Communist Party in its intense struggle to win public support for its often brutal campaign to suppress Falun Gong.

Falun Gong member
Falun Gong denies involvement
For more than a year and a half, the Chinese state has sought to depict Falun Gong as dangerous cult that has caused the deaths of many hundreds of its followers.

Until now, it has had little evidence to support its claims.

Falun Gong itself is trying to distance the organisation from the suicide attempt.

A statement from its New York office said the pictures shown on Chinese state television proved nothing.

It said there is still no evidence that those who set fire to themselves on Tiananmen Square last week had anything to do with Falun gong.

In the past, claims by the Chinese government about the dangers of Falun Gong have been easy for the group to ridicule.

This time it will not be so easy.

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See also:

01 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Police break up Falun Gong demo
13 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong member dies after beating
21 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
UN-China rift on human rights
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese 'cult busters' set up
27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
New Falun Gong protest broken up
22 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
The complex Web of Falun Gong
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong: Living in fear
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