Chinese spiritualists hold 2-day protest

Falun Gong demands retraction of article

July 11, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING -- Nearly 1,000 members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong held a two-day demonstration inside government headquarters in a southern Chinese city last week, a human rights organization reported yesterday.

Undeterred by a recent crackdown on Falun Gong in Beijing, where China's leaders appear alarmed by the size, organization and secretive nature of the movement, the demonstrators entered the inner courtyard of Communist Party headquarters in Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The demonstrators demanded the retraction of an article in an official publication that likened Falun Gong, or Buddhist Law, to a superstitious cult.

Ignoring the danger implied in official warnings, they refused to leave until a government official disavowed the article, the human rights organization said. The demonstration was peaceful and no one was arrested, said Hong Kong's Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

Falun Gong burst onto the scene in April, when more than 10,000 members surrounded the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition from leaders who had never heard of the group, whose secretive nature prevents an accurate estimate of its size. Falun Gong claims 100 million members; government estimates are set at about 40 million.

Beijing's leaders were alarmed by the discovery that senior members of the government and the army believe in the healing powers of Falun Gong, a branch of qigong, a traditional teaching that human energy may be channeled to achieve supernatural powers.

Followers of Falun Gong claim their founder, Li Hongzhi, is capable of flying and other extraordinary feats. Li could not prevent the authorities from circumscribing his activity in China, and he fled to the United States last year.

In Nanchang, the demonstration was sparked by an article denouncing Falun Gong in a publication called Jiuan Zhilu, published by the Provincial Communist Party Committee. The demonstrators assembled Tuesday to demand a retraction, the Hong Kong human rights group said, but it took until noon the next day for an official of the newsletter to meet with nine members of the group and agree that the article represented only the author's view and not the view of any magazine or official organization.

Pub Date: 7/11/99

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