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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Chinese media attacks Falun Gong
police patrolling for cult members
Police look out for cult members as crackdown continues
A year after the spiritual group Falun Gong was banned, the Chinese media are continuing a campaign of propaganda against it and other "dissidents".

Since the ban, the authorities have arrested thousands of people in an attempt to crush the Falun Gong.

Falun Gong meditating
Before the crackdown: Falun Gong meditate in a Beijing hotel
At its height a year ago, it was thought the movement had 70 million members inside China, more than the Chinese communist party itself.

But the continued media attacks are a clear indication of the leadership's anxiety over what it sees as a threat to stability and the party posed by a quasi-religious mass movement.

The party leadership was particularly alarmed at the extent to which the Falun Gong had penetrated into the upper ranks of the party, government and the army - and much of the recent propaganda reflects this concern, with repeated calls for ideological purity.

The essence of the cult is anti-scientific, anti-mankind, anti-social, and anti-government

Official Chinese news agency
President Jiang Zemin personally launched a campaign in February to reindoctrinate party members away from "superstition" to a belief in science and technology.

Numerous articles praising Mr Jiang for launching the campaign - known as the "three representations" - speak of replacing religion with the "spirit of socialism".

The campaign appeals for an ideologically pure party to provide clear leadership to stop people seeking it elsewhere in groups such as the Falun Gong.

Some officials burn joss sticks or worship the Buddha by kowtowing three times

Party journal
One recent article warned party officials against practising religion in secret or attending underground church services in private homes.

A party journal recently berated many officials who it said believed in supernatural beings and superstitious customs like fortune telling, mocking their use of traditional Taoist or Buddhist customs.

"Some officials burn joss sticks or worship the Buddha by kowtowing three times and kneeling down nine times to help them get promotion," the journal Qiushi said.

"In some enterprises, rooms are filled with burning joss stick smoke in honour of the Gods of Satisfaction and Wealth where managers are seen silently worshipping a Buddha made of jade."

Falun Gong protest
Protesters in Hong Kong picket Chinese news agency building
The Falun Gong practise a form of exercise and meditation drawn from Buddhist and Taoist philosophies to gain inner spiritual peace and good health.

China's ageing leaders will know that a revival of religious belief, the emergence of quasi religious cults and increasingly restive ethnic minorities, preceded the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and the break up of the Soviet empire.

The media assault indicates that President Jiang has no intention of following in Mikhail Gorbachev's footsteps.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong launching own radio station
11 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong followers held
22 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
The complex Web of Falun Gong
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong: Living in fear
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