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Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 14:28 GMT
Falun Gong urges end to ban

Falun Gong conference Many wept as they listened to accounts of suppression in China

About 1,000 followers of the Falun Gong movement have held a conference in Hong Kong defending their group against suppression in mainland China.

"We are not political at all. This is not a political issue, but a human rights issue," said Belinda Pang, an organiser of the event.

We are good people, we are not a threat.
Falun Gong spokesman
China has branded Falun Gong an ''evil cult'' and a threat to national security, but the group remains legal in Hong Kong.

Many at the conference were in tears, expressing disbelief that Beijing would clamp down so harshly on a spiritual movement which they say helps them lead better lives.

Falun Gong, which boasted millions of followers in China before the crackdown, teaches a blend of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and exercise.

But the government banned the group in July as a threat to Communist Party rule, and police have rounded up hundreds of members.

Beijing officials have also warned Falun Gong not to use Hong Kong as a base to infiltrate the mainland.


Hong Kong, which was promised a high degree of autonomy under the terms of its return to China in 1997, has said Falun Gong will be tolerated as long as it remains within the law.

Falun Gong demo Hundreds of followers staged a protest in Hong Kong
But Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa warned members of the cult to behave in a statement on Saturday.

"The organisers and participants must not act in any manner which is against the interests of China or Hong Kong," he added.

The warning followed a demonstration on Saturday by about 600 Falun Gong followers from all over the world who demanded the Chinese authorities end their ban on the group.

The protesters paraded through the streets of Hong Kong waving banners and banging gongs.

They left an open letter, addressed to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, on the doorstep of China's state-run Xinhua News Agency office in Hong Kong.

The letter urged an open dialogue with Chinese leaders to clear up any misunderstandings about the sect

China started a major crackdown on the movement earlier this year after 10,000 members descended on Tiananmen Square in April demanding official recognition of their faith.

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See also:
21 Nov 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
China's perplexing crackdown
16 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong protest quashed
22 Jul 99 |  Monitoring
Text of notice banning sect
12 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong leader gets 12 years

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