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Fans seek Nobel for Falun Gong founder

File picture of Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi
File picture of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi mediating  

HONG KONG, China -- China's banned Falun Gong spiritual leader Li Hongzhi has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize after a mass lobbying campaign by his followers.

Falun Gong Hong Kong spokesman Kan Hung Cheung told CNN.com that over the past two months practitioners in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Taiwan have been asking politicians and academics to put in Li's nomination to the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

Dr. Olav Njølstad, one of the five permanent advisers on the Nobel committee, declines to release information on nominees but says nominations have been pouring in before today's deadline.

Last year the institute had a record 150 nominees. Dr Njølstad says this year the figure could approach 200.

The Nobel Committee rules that those who can nominate the peace prize winner include former prize winners, members of the committee, elected parliamentarians, cabinet members, and professors in history, politics, philosophy and international law.

Perry Luo, a Falun Gong member based in Brisbane, Australia, told CNN.com that he and fellow believers had been contacting all university professors and most parliamentarians in the state of Queensland.

They received emails from organizers in the United States two months ago about a worldwide nomination drive for Li. "We're not running a campaign," he says.

But he admits that some practitioners contact their university professors personally and others plough through the web for contacts in parliament and academia. Li, who now lives in the United States, was also nominated for the prize last year.

Dr. Njølstad says: "The committee is very conscious not to subject to lobbying . . . Sometimes we receive thousands of letters of the exact same copy."

"This doesn't impress the committee very much. It may be counter-productive."

The institute, due to announce the winner in mid-October, will not release the names of the nominees but those who make nominations often publicise their choice.

The Chinese government has arrested thousands of Falun Gong members in a series of crackdowns since Beijing banned the spiritual movement in China in 1999, branding it as an "evil cult".



RELATED STORIES:
Nobel Peace Prize deadline looms
Falun Gong denies tie to self-immolation attempts

RELATED SITES:
Official Falun Gong site
The Norwegian Nobel Institute site

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