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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 20:31 GMT
China denies Falun Gong abuse claim
Falung Gong practitioner
Falun Gong followers enjoy more freedom in Hong Kong
China has strenuously denied accusations that it has been misusing its psychiatric care system to lock up political opponents, including followers of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group.

The denials follow the release of a report in the Columbia Journal of Asian Law, which says that China has been detaining its opponents in a secretive network of police-run hospitals since the 1950's.

Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong founder
China fears the influence of the Falun Gong's Li Hongzhi
The study says that China's campaign to suppress the outlawed Falun Gong movement has revived the use of psychiatric institutions to lock up opponents.

But a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London, Gong Jianzhong, has dismissed as groundless any accusations that the government is using psychiatry as a political tool.

'Mind control'

However, in an interview with the BBC, Mr Gong agreed that some of the followers of the Falun Gong leader, Li Hongzhi, have been treated in psychiatric institutions.

"It is necessary for them to get rid of their mind control and break away from Li Hongzhi theory," he said.

As the war of words over the Falun Gong heightens, China's most senior religious official has warned the movement that it will not be allowed to use Hong Kong as a centre for its activities.

Speaking at a conference in Hong Kong, the director of China's Bureau of Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen, described Falun Gong as a poisonous tumour.

Destroying lives

He said it had torn up its camouflage and pointed the spearhead of attack directly at China's central government.

Mr Ye said Falun Gong was undeniably evil and a social tumour that cripples people's lives and destroys families, and he added that the option of revoking its registration as a legal society had been raised.

His comments are being seen as adding to the pressure on Hong Kong's authorities to clamp down on the movement.

Under the territory's limited autonomy, Hong Kong is the only place in China where the meditation movement is still legal.

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See also:

15 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
China denies Falun Gong torture
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
27 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
US warns China over Falun Gong trials
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