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China set for long battle against Falun Gong

Falun Gong members meditate
China brands the Falun Gong an "evil cult"  

By Willy Lam
Senior China Analyst

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing has classified the campaign against the Falun Gong quasi-Buddhist sect as a "long-term struggle."

Sources close to the security establishment said this was the party leadership's indirect admission that the Falun Gong movement could not be exterminated in the foreseeable future.

In recent internal briefings to officials nationwide, senior law-enforcement cadres said significant headway had been made in combating the "cult."

However, the cadres pointed out that while the Falun Gong had been prevented from holding high-profile demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, it had gone underground and remained a big threat to stability.

It is estimated that more than 12,000 Falun Gong practitioners have since late 1999 been put behind bars. Asia
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The great majority of these practitioners are held in police-operated "reform through labor" camps, and most such cases have not gone through proper legal and judicial procedures.

In the briefings, however, law-enforcement cadres indicated Falun Gong practitioners had remained active in the provinces, where they were able to recruit new members and form new cells.

A Beijing security source said in order to wage an effective "long-term struggle," party authorities had set up a 'Leading Group on Combating Cults', which is headed by senior Politburo member Li Lanqing.

The leading group has established anti-cult offices in every province and major city.

Moreover, in regional administrations, one vice-governor and vice-mayor will be held personally responsible for controlling and clamping down on cult activities.

"The vice-governor or vice-mayor will be penalized if Falun Gong activities in his province or city are not contained, or if practitioners from his jurisdiction are able to sneak to Beijing to hold demonstrations there," the source said.

State security and intelligence operatives, including those based overseas, are asked to spend on resources on collecting information about active sect members.

Moreover, anti-cult education campaigns will be held in schools, factories and government units in an apparent bid to generate a Mao-style mass movement against the Falun Gong.

In internal circulars, party authorities have claimed Beijing has encountered difficulties in exterminating the "cult" mainly because it has secured help from "hostile foreign forces."

The authorities also claimed Falun Gong practitioners had hooked up with pro-independence activists in Taiwan as well as the Tibetan exiled movement.

• Chinese Foreign Ministry

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