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Saturday, October 16, 1999 Published at 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China warning over Falun Gong

Falun Gong was banned in July amid protests outside official buildings

The Chinese Government is taking further action against the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which it banned last July as a threat to internal security.

China's State Council, the cabinet, has ordered civil servants who belong to the Falun Gong to leave it, or face demotion or dismissal.

It said leniency would be shown to those who did leave, but those it described as plotters or organisers would be punished.

According to Chinese media reports, some government officials had organised illegal Falun Gong assemblies.

Millions of members

[ image: Members do regular breathing exercises]
Members do regular breathing exercises
The movement has tens of millions of adherents across China and claims more than 100 million members worldwide.

It was banned after a mass demonstration in Beijing.

Falun Gong - which adheres to a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and breathing exercises - challenged the Communist Party's monopoly on power in April when more than 10,000 members besieged the party compound in Beijing in a peaceful demonstration to demand official recognition of their faith.

Arrests and 'beatings'

Since then, human rights groups say the authorities have arrested several hundred Falun Gong members.

There have been numerous reports of members being beaten.

At the beginning of October, supporters of the movement said a follower of the sect had been beaten to death in police custody.

A police spokesman in the town of Zhangzing in northern Shangdong province said 42-year-old Zhao Jinhua was undergoing "education" to persuade her to renounce her support for Falun Gong.

Leader in exile

[ image: Founder Li Hongzhi is in exile]
Founder Li Hongzhi is in exile
The official would not confirm claims by Falun Gong members in the United States and a Hong Kong-based human rights group that she had been tortured.

A number of leading members are due to stand trial for their role in the movement but the authorities have promised that ordinary followers will not face punishment if they renounced their beliefs.

Li Hongzhi, the leader of the sect, remains in exile in the United States.

China has announced $6,000 reward for Li Hongzhi's arrest.

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