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Sunday, September 19, 1999 Published at 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China 'detains' sect members

The People's Republic is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary

At least 300 members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect are reported to have been detained by the Chinese authorities, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Communist victory in China.

Human rights activists from a Hong Kong-based group, the Information Centre on Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, say people have been detained across the country over the past week and subjected to harsh treatment before being released.

[ image: The Falun Gong combines aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, breathing exercises and meditation]
The Falun Gong combines aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, breathing exercises and meditation
The human-rights group said 10 people were detained on Sunday in a park in Changsha, a southern provincial capital.

There have been official reports of 20 arrests in recent days.

China's state media has also called for more action against the group, and stressed the need for stability in the run up to the anniversary.

"Although the social tumour of the Falun Gong group has been cut out, its germs have not been entirely eliminated and are still trying to erode the healthy body of society," the Communist Party's People's Daily said.

[ image: Party officials have spent weeks in political study before the anniversary]
Party officials have spent weeks in political study before the anniversary
Correspondents say the movement was banned in July after the authorities became alarmed by the strength of its following.

Since then, many of the sect's leaders have been arrested and hundreds of thousands of books and tapes destroyed.

China's leaders argued the crackdown was crucial to maintain social stability.

The ban followed three days of demonstrations in cities across China by thousands of Falun Gong supporters in protest at the detention of its leaders.

Reward for arrest

One day after the ban, the Chinese army ordered its three million personnel to devote themselves to the struggle of disbanding the sect, which has gained a following of millions since it was launched seven years ago.

Falun Gong combines aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, breathing exercises and meditation with a devotion to its leader - Master Li Hongzhi, who lives in exile in the US.

China has offered a $6,000 reward for the arrest of Li, but Washington has said it will not allow the leader to be extradited.

The sect shook the government in April, when 10,000 members protested outside government headquarters to demand official status for their faith.

In the run-up to grand celebrations marking the 1 October 1949 founding of modern China, millions of senior bureaucrats and party officials in state-run factories, banks and other institutions have spent weeks in political and study and criticism sessions.

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Introduction to Falun Gong

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