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Stiff Sentences for Falun Gong
Tang Ren, Beijing, P.R. China
China just sent 15 members of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement, to 4 to 20 years in jail. This verdict came from Changchun's Intermediary People's Court, which charged that they hijacked the government cable TV networks to broadcast their stories about the government's persecution against their group.
This trial was widely reported by the world press because it showed that Beijing's attempt to eliminate Falun Gong has failed. Such TV hijacking incidents reportedly also happened in other regions in China.
Many Chinese people do not believe that those who were sentenced to jail were capable of doing this hi-tech work, because they are hardly educated civilians, and its alleged leader is an old woman apparently with no science background. How could these people gain the know-how to hijack a cable TV network? In particular, there were also reports that Falun Gong members hijacked China's satellite system and broadcasted their programming to the central China region.
Many insiders here speculate that those who were sentenced to jail are merely scapegoats because these incidents are more complicated than they seem. In addition to well-trained engineers, there must have been some support or instruction from very high-level officials. This series of TV and satellite hijacking also indicates an intensified power struggle among top leaders over the Falun Gong issue. Many senior Party leaders and their family members practiced Falun Gong before the government's ban.
Falun Gong, based on traditional Chinese meditation exercises, was once supported by the government. It gained the following of tens of millions in the mid-1990s before it was banned by Beijing in July 1999. Now it still remains active underground. Beijing residents routinely receive its information sheets in their mailboxes.
*Tang Ren is a free-lance writer based in Beijing, P.R.C.
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