China: Falun Gong a global threat
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing has taken its nationwide campaign to discredit the Falun Gong movement to an international stage, calling the spiritual group a threat to civilized society all over the world.
Speaking to reporters in his first news conference as spokesman of China's embassy in Washington, Xie Feng said the Falun Gong "cult has never stopped breaking [the] law and committing crimes."
The latest step in China's battle against the Falun Gong, which Beijing now brands as a quasi-terrorist sect, follows the alleged hijacking of state-run satellites to broadcast pro-Falun Gong propaganda last month by group members based outside the country.
"By openly and deliberately attacking the Sinosat in contempt of international laws and the regulations, the Falun Gong cult was unscrupulously breaking the order of wireless communications and launching a challenge against civilization," Xie said in Washington on Monday.
"The international community should unite in condemning and punishing this cult," Xie said.
A Falun Gong spokesperson rejected Xie's claims as another unsubstantiated slanderous attack made by Beijing in an attempt to legitimize its crackdown on the group.
"All these accusations are groundless. Where is the proof?" Sophie Xiao, spokeswoman for Falun Gong in Hong Kong told CNN.
"What you have seen in the past three years is the most peaceful, non-violent demonstrations [by Falun Gong followers] in the world. Truthfulness, compassion and tolerance -- that's the essence and universal characteristics of Falun Gong."
Xiao also said there was no evidence that the satellite broadcast hijacking in June had been perpetrated by Falun Gong members, arguing that the level of sophistication to tap into the signal was too complex.
"Nobody could rightly think it was us," Xiao said. "They are looking for international sympathy for their three years of brutal persecutions against millions of people."
Shift in attack
Xie's comments mark a noticeable shift in the focus of Beijing's campaign against the Falun Gong, analysts say.
In past anti-Falun Gong propaganda salvoes, the emphasis had been on the damage the group had allegedly done to the health of gullible worshippers and their relatives.
But now Beijing is moving the battleground to an international level, looking to put pressure on Western governments, like the United States, which had allowed Falun Gong cells to recruit new members in their countries of exile, analysts say. (Full story)
Falun Gong, based on traditional Chinese religions and meditation exercises, acquired millions of followers in the mid-1990s before it was banned by Beijing in July 1999 and denounced as an "evil cult."
Since it was outlawed, thousands of members have been detained and activists based outside China claim hundreds have died and been tortured while in custody.
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