Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
China bans sect
The sect claims it has more than 100 million followers
The authorities in China have announced a ban on the quasi-religious Falun Gong sect, declaring it an illegal organisation.
In a sign that Chinese leaders see the movement as a serious threat to law and order, they accuse it of "being engaged in illegal activities, in advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardising social stability".
But the Hong Kong government has said the sect will remain legal in its territory so long as members did not break the law.
On Thursday morning, the sect's followers continued to protest on mainland China at official attempts to suppress their movement.
In Beijing, devotees again tried to make their way towards the Communist Party headquarters in the centre of the city.
Several hundred of them were seen being put onto buses by police about a kilometre from the party compound and driven away.
On Wednesday, hundreds of others were detained closer to the compound and were taken to two stadiums on the outskirts of the city.
With discontent growing over unemployment and stagnating incomes, correspondents say that China's leaders are worried that challenges to their rule could quickly lead to even more widespread protests.
In a letter posted on Falun Gong's US Website, Falun Dafa, the group appealed to members to "protect" the sect by organising, explaining their aims to officials and demanding the release of detained members.
The scale of these protests is evidence of the enormous popularity of the Falun Gong movement, which has gained the following of millions since it was launched just seven years ago.
The Chinese Government has condemned Master Li's teachings as superstition.
The group itself estimates that it has 100 million followers - a claim that has alarmed the Communist Party, which has 60 million members.
The Chinese authorities said in a televised address in mid-June that Falun Gong members could practise their faith, but warned them against spreading rumours or inciting differences.
Members of Falun Gong say they are not an organised religion.
"A religious group has an organised structure, temples or churches and special rituals. We have none of that," said one member.
Falun Gong members often meet in parks to meditate and do yoga-like exercises.
"We are good people. How can good people be criminals? Why do we have to endure such persecution?" said one message posted on the sect's Web site.