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Sect Members Detained in Schools

July 26, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Government officials who took part in the banned Falun Gong meditation sect are being detained in schools outside a northern Chinese city, a rights group reported today.

About 1,200 officials have been held since Saturday in Shijiazhuang and have been forced to read Communist Party material and give up their association with Falun Gong, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported from Hong Kong, citing sources in China it did not disclose.

The officials in Shijiazhuang, 200 miles southwest of Beijing, were not allowed any outside contacts, the report said. They were ordered to submit written guarantees that they would break ties with the group, it said.

Police throughout China have ransacked homes of Falun Gong practitioners and confiscated books, video tapes and posters about the group, according to Falun Gong Web sites based in the United States.

China’s state-controlled newspapers claimed successes today in the government crackdown, saying people were turning in Falun Gong materials and renouncing the organization.

China’s communist leaders banned Falun Gong on Thursday and accused it of trying to develop political power.

Falun Gong leaders have denied any political ambitions and said they did not organize protests that erupted last week after authorities reportedly arrested leading sect members.

Falun Gong members stunned the government on April 25 when at least 10,000 adherents surrounded the headquarters of the Communist Party and central government in Beijing in a silent protest of what they said was harassment by local officials.

China doesn’t allow independent religious or political groups for fear they might challenge the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The government is especially concerned that independent groups might stir up anger over high unemployment and rampant corruption.

Government estimates had put the number of Falun Gong practitioners in China at as many as 70 million, although officials now say that number was exaggerated.

Falun Gong, founded by a former Chinese soldier now living in the United States, draws on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism. The group says its goals are physical and mental fitness and high moral standards, and denies that it is either a religion or a political movement.

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