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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 20:55 GMT
China 'arrests 2,000 Falun Gong members'

Falun Gong rituals Falun Gong members going through their slow-motion exercises


Thousands of members of the banned Falun Gong sect have been detained during Chinese New Year celebrations, a human rights group has said.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said the Chinese authorities had arrested 2,000 members of the spiritual movement over the past five days.

The crackdown began as Falun Gong members staged a protest timed for the start of the Lunar New Year early on Saturday.

Police detained people in 40 Chinese cities, including more than 500 in Beijing, the group said.

Tiananmen protest

Those arrested included several members of the People's Liberation Army who had demonstrated in Tiananmen Square.

The information centre said the authorities were using various methods to try to pressure people into leaving the Falun Gong.

Falun Gong arrest A member of the Falun Gong being arrested at Tiananmen Square
Apart from being detained, some of the followers had been fined, others had lost their jobs or been denied housing allocations and their children prevented from getting jobs, it said.

Officials have been unable to comment as Chinese offices are still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Falun Gong members have staged repeated peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square since the ruling Communist Party outlawed the group as a public menace last July.

Meditation

Falun Gong is a blend of meditation, slow-motion exercises and ideas drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and founder Li Hongzhi.

Followers say it is not a religion but promotes health and morality.

The government banned Falun Gong out of fears that its widespread appeal and organisational ability could threaten the authority of the Communist Party.

Thousands of Falun Gong followers have since been arrested and some jailed for as long as 18 years.

The Falun Gong says it is being victimised by the government.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Huge exodus for new year
05 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong arrests in Tiananmen Square
21 Nov 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
China's perplexing crackdown
22 Jul 99 |  Asia-Pacific
The complex Web of Falun Gong
11 Jan 00 |  Americas
US attacks China rights abuses

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