Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Sect leader fears new Tiananmen
Notice of the government ban has been posted across China
The leader of China's Falun Gong religious sect, Master Li Hongzhi, says he is worried the Chinese military might take violent action against his supporters following the banning of the movement earlier this week.
"If they do, the consequence will be that the people will lose their faith in the leadership and will not trust the government," he said.
In a statement released to news agencies and on the group's website, Master Li warned there might be bloodshed of the kind witnessed when the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy activists were suppressed ten years ago.
Master Li appealed for dialogue with the Chinese Government and said followers of Falun Gong should not be treated as enemies.
On Saturday 75 minute-long National News Hook-up programme was mainly devoted to criticism of the sect.
There were a total of 33 items broadcast, of which all but two were directly or indirectly about Falun Gong and its suppression.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has accused China of heavy-handedness in its clamping down on the sect and defended the right of its followers to demonstrate peacefully.
Army ordered in
Earlier, China ordered its three million-strong army to take the lead in eliminating the influence of the Falun Gong movement with soldiers told to devote themselves to the struggle against the sect.
The Communist Party leadership has declared its campaign to disband the Falun Gong a serious political struggle that will affect the future of the party and the nation.
However the official party newspaper, the People's Daily, has admitted that membership of the sect has extended into the party and government organisations.
The sect supporters were taken away from the city centre in police buses.
A small group of supporters was also removed from an area near the Communist Party compound.
Other sect members arriving in Beijing are being sent back home in convoys of buses.
Articles have also accused the sect of misleading and abusing followers, causing some to go mad, commit suicide or murder others.
Officials have warned the cult's millions of members that they face unspecified punishment if they fail to leave the sect.
The ban follows three days of demonstrations in cities across China by thousands of Falun Gong supporters in protest at the detention of 100 sect leaders.
Hong Kong protest
Some 50 protesters have been holding a silent demonstration outside the official Xinhua news agency complex in the territory.
China said that Hong Kong would decide for itself whether to ban the sect.
Followed by millions
The sect has gained a following of millions since it was launched just seven years ago.
BBC Beijing Correspondent James Miles says one of the main reasons behind the crackdown is the party's concern that many members of the avowedly atheist establishment are showing more devotion to the sect than to the Communist leadership itself.
The Falun Gong combines aspects of Buddhism and Taoism with a religious devotion to its leader, Master Li.