Tuesday, November 25, 2008

China Falun Gong follower receives 3-year sentence

BEIJING: A Beijing court Tuesday sentenced a follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation movement to three years in prison on a vaguely worded charge, her lawyer said.

Artist Xu Na was convicted of "using a cult organization to undermine implementation of the law," her lawyer Cheng Hai said. He had yet to study the verdict — the second time authorities have used the vague charge this month to imprison a group member_ but said her family planned to appeal.

According to the U.S.-based Falun Gong Information Center, Xu and her husband were picked up in the Chinese capital on Jan. 26 as part of a security sweep tied to the Beijing Olympics. The center said Xu's husband, musician Yu Zhou, died in police custody 11 days after his detention, a claim that could not be verified.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with its program of traditional Chinese calisthenics and philosophy drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the often-unorthodox teachings of founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in hiding overseas.

Originally promoted by authorities, it was banned in 1999 after members mounted a massive demonstration outside government headquarters in Beijing. Authorities labeled it an "evil cult."

A clerk with Beijing's Chongwen District People's Court, who gave only his surname, Wang, confirmed there was a verdict against Xu but declined to confirm the sentence.

Xu's sentencing follows that earlier this month of former Shanghai university librarian Liu Jin on the same charge. She was imprisoned for three and a half years. Liu's lawyer said she had passed on information about the group downloaded from the Internet.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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