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China Continues Campaign Vs. Sect

September 10, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ The banned meditation sect Falun Gong has started to go underground and must be completely stopped by punishing its remaining leaders, a commentary in an official Chinese newspaper said Friday.

The commentary in the People’s Daily warned that although most followers of the group had been persuaded through a massive propaganda campaign to cut their ties with it, others were gathering secretly and trying to create an underground organization.

``We cannot expect one storm to sweep away all the garbage,″ the commentary said. It called for ``maintaining a high level of vigilance″ and punishing the group’s organizers. If authorities become too lax, the Falun Gong movement could be rekindled, it warned.

Commentaries in the People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, reflect the thinking of China’s leaders.

The government views Falun Gong as a threat to social stability and to the Communist Party’s hold on power. The government outlawed it in July, saying it was a cult that had an anti-government agenda and was responsible for the deaths of more than 700 people.

Falun Gong combines ideas from Taoism, Buddhism and qigong, a form of exercises and meditation. The group’s spokesmen in the United States, where its founder Li Hongzhi lives, say Falun Gong has no political agenda and merely promotes health and morality.

Since the ban was imposed, Chinese authorities have rounded up thousands of followers for ``re-education″ and confiscated large amounts of Falun Gong teaching materials nationwide.

Friday’s commentary said the recent arrest of members of the outlawed group in Beijing was proof that secret meetings were continuing.

Authorities recently detained 19 Falun Gong participants from Beijing and the provinces of Hainan and Jilin at a gathering near a river in western Beijing, state-run newspapers reported Thursday.

Fourteen were contrite and were released, and five were taken into custody. Six people who tipped authorities off to the meeting got rewards, the reports said.

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