The government banned the Falun Gong cult because the Chinese people demanded action against it.
That's according to a spokesman from the Information Office of the State Council.
The ban has been carried out according to the law, and people from all walks of life support it, the official said yesterday.
Before the ban, people across the country had expressed concern about the cult's harmful effect on families, the health of Falun Gong practitioners themselves, the potential damage to social stability and the illegal profits made by the ringleaders headed by Li Hongzhi, the official said.
Citizens called on the government to contain the cult's spread. Meanwhile, relatives of Falun Gong victims, journalists and scientists have written stories carried in newspapers across the country that have shed light on the unlawful activities of the cult, the official said.
In June last year Guangming Daily, one of the leading newspapers in China, published an article that said the book "Zhuan Falun," written by cult leader, Li promotes feudalism and superstition.
In April 1998, Qilu Evening News, based in Jinan, the provincial capital of East China's Shandong Province, carried two reports focusing on Falun Gong practitioners who died of illness after refusing medical treatment. A month later, Beijing Television aired a story about a man studying for his doctorate who became paralyzed while practicing Falun Gong.
In April 1999, He Zuoxiu, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, contributed an essay to a journal published by the Education College at Tianjin Normal University which criticized the cult.
Since 1998, a dozen Chinese media organizations have carried stories exposing the true nature of Falun Gong. In retaliation, Li Hongzhi organized his followers to protest outside these television stations and newspaper offices.
The government's ban and crackdown on the cult is legal and is aimed at safeguarding social stability and protecting people's lives and property. This is the government's primary responsibility, said the spokesman, who added that a cult is a social cancer. The government in any country that has experienced cults should adopt a watchful and preventive attitude, and handle such groups with a firm hand, he noted. China has always adhered to the policy of resolutely cracking down on cults and the criminal activities of their members, according to the official.
In March 1997, the National People's Congress (NPC), China' s top legislative body, revised the Criminal Law which provided punishments for cult-related criminal activities.
In July 1999, the Ministry of Civil Affairs outlawed Falun Gong after finding that the so-called Falun Dafa Society and its Falun Gong organizations had never registered with the ministry and were engaged in illegal activities.
At the same time, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular prohibiting publicity of Falun Dafa in any form as well as any activities disturbing social order or opposing the government.
In October 1999, the NPC Standing Committee passed a resolution banning cults and preventing and punishing their activities.
On December 26, 1999, the Intermediate People's Court of Beijing sentenced, in the first instance, core Falun Gong leaders Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu and Yao Jie to convictions for obstructing law enforcement and causing deaths through cult activities.
The court confirmed the Falun Dafa society and local Falun Gong training centres were associated with the cult. And the four received prison sentences ranging from 7-18 years accordingly.
Since then, local courts across the country have sentenced a number of Falun Gong members according to China's Criminal Law, the official said, stressing repeatedly that the government's actions have been based on law.
The spokesman reiterated the government's policy on dealing with the members of Falun Gong. The majority of Falun Gong practitioners were deceived by the cult and they should be educated to free themselves from the group's spiritual shackles.
Considering the size and scope of the cult, only a handful of Falun Gong members have been severely punished according to law, he noted. So far, 242 backbone Falun Gong members have been given criminal punishments throughout the country, official statistics showed.
The judicial departments have punished Falun Gong criminals not for their practice of Falun Gong but for their violation of Chinese law, the official said.
Moreover, he said, the judicial departments have followed the principle of basing their sentencing decisions on facts and law.
To deal with the Falun Gong issue according to law complies with the State's principle of rule of law, as it aims to protect the rights and interests of the people, maintain stable social development, and preserve the legal authority, he stressed.
A number of hard-core Falun Gong elements have recently aired their beliefs publicly in some highly visible places, including Tian'anmen Square, in an attempt to influence non-believers.
In response, the municipal government of Beijing has adopted stronger measures, such as increased police patrols, to protect Tian'anmen Square and other places where illegal gatherings have been held. This is meant to guarantee the timely detainment and removal of those Falun Gong members who are engaged in illegal acts, the official said.
Cult members who resorted to violence were led away forcefully so that normal social order could be restored as quickly as possible, according to the official.
According to the Law on Gatherings, Parades and Demonstrations, activities such as those public demonstrations staged by Falun Gong members must have prior approval from the public security department. The municipal government of Beijing has also issued rules against illegal gatherings, parades and demonstrations as well as any kind of illegal publicity material being posted in public.
Falun Gong activists' gatherings on the Tian'anmen Square, held in the name of "protecting or spreading the Fa," are illegal, the official said.
Based on the People's Police Law, police have the right to question Falun Gong members who are holding unapproved and illegal gatherings on Tian'anmen Square; police have the right to order them to disperse and can forcibly break up the gatherings should the participants refuse to cooperate; and they have the right to immediately detain those who have disobeyed the order, according to the official.
Cult members from elsewhere in the country who have travelled to Beijing to participate in illegal gatherings will be detained or forcibly sent back to their homes by the police. Those who have seriously disturbed social order will be punished or sent to labour camps for re-education according to law, but those who have violated the Criminal Law and committed crimes will be held responsible in a court of law.
The transformation-through-labour system was launched on August 1, 1957, when the NPC Standing Committee approved a resolution of the State Council on the issue.
On November 29, 1979, the NPC Standing Committee approved some additional related rules issued by the State Council.
In January 1982, the State Council promulgated a provisional regulation on transformation through labour.
According to law, those who have disturbed social order, refused to break their ties with the cult, or committed minor cult-related crimes will be sent to labour camps for transformation. Such cases would need to be approved by the transformation-through-labour administrative commissions under provincial or municipal level governments.
The official noted that to this day, none of those who have been sent to transformation-through-labour houses are put into these places solely because they practise Falun Gong but because their participation in demonstrations has disturbed social order.
The legal rights of those who are being transformed through labour are protected by Chinese law, including their personal rights, property rights and rights to sue and appeal and communicate, according to the official. Measures are taken to ensure the protection of these rights, he added.
The transformation-through-labour institutions follow the policy of educating their inmates and protecting their legal rights, and measures taken to preserve these rights include the reduction of sentences, home-based transformation, and early release from the institutions, according to the official.
The spokesman denied reports on Falun Gong websites that a female practitioner was beaten to death on Tian'anmen Square on the morning of January 1, 2001.
"I could responsibly say that this is a rumour fabricated by Falun Gong groups. Nobody has died on the square since April 25, 1999," he said.
(Xinhua, January 16, 2001)