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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 03:15 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Falun Gong followers arrested

Chinese police have made regular arrests of Falun Gong practioneers

China's authorities have charged 11 followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement with an array of offences including revealing state secrets, a Hong Kong-based human rights group has reported.

[ image: Followers continued their excercises as police rounded them up]
Followers continued their excercises as police rounded them up
They were detained in Jiangsu, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, and charged with crimes such as "using an evil cult to destroy the law" and "revealing state secrets", said the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

Chinese police arrested another five Falun Gong practitioners from Hong Kong - including a child - in Beijing when they tried to display a banner to express their belief in the spiritual movement.

They staged a brief protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square before police forced them into a van and drove them away.

Jail terms

Last Friday, China jailed four Falun Gong leaders in the southern island province of Hainan for up to 12 years, in the first known trial of members.

They were convicted of organising illegal protests.

[ image: Practitioners say Falun Gong promotes good mental and physical health]
Practitioners say Falun Gong promotes good mental and physical health
More than 100 Falun Gong leaders have been formally arrested.

Many more members are under various forms of administrative detention, like labour camps, which are not subject to the judicial process.

The government banned Falun Gong in July and has vowed to wipe out what it sees as a threat to communist rule.

Falun Gong is an offshoot of traditional schools of slow-motion exercise.

It blends ideas from Buddhism and Taoism with those of its founder, Li Hongzhi, who now lives in the United States.

Falun Gong was practised openly in public parks and car parks before the ban.

But the ruling Communist Party, alarmed by the movement's rapid growth and its international links, has branded it a threat to social and political stability.

China's leadership was stunned when 10,000 members descended on Tiananmen Square in April to demand official recognition of their faith.

Officials estimate that more than 1,000 followers have converged on the square in recent protests.

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