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Religion News Report

January 23, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 314) - 1/2

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues
Rainbow


=== Falun Gong
1. One dead as five falungong set themselves on fire in Tiananmen
2. Falun Gong members set themselves on fire as protest, witness reports
3. CNN crew witnesses falungong Tiananmen suicide
4. China Says Five Falun Gong Members Self-Immolate
5. China spooked by its failure to crush falungong
6. falungong: the mysterious thorn in Beijing's side
7. China Braces For Falun Gong Protests Over Lunar New Year
8. Banned Sect Sells Works In Hong Kong As Beijing Complains
9. Key dates in emergence of China's banned falungong movement

=== Falun Gong - Reports from China's governmen-controlled/influenced media
10. China crackdown on Falun Gong publicity material reported

=== Scientology
11. Scientologist Web site rips off urban75.com

» Part 2

=== Unification Church
12. Koreas Unification Church dipping its toe into South Pacific

=== Hinduism
13. 3,000 naked novices sign up with fierce sect at Indian pilgrimage

=== Islam
14. Nigerian girl flogged for having sex, despite Canadian and other protests
15. Nigerian girl flogged in spite of international outcry

=== Mungiki
16. Kenya: Sect members arrested in Nairobi slum area after clash with police

=== Other News
17. God's Army Twins Admit No Powers
18. Children rescued as parents are arrested
19. Parents Starved Children 'On God's Orders'
20. Marrying Minors Into Polygamy May Become Crime

=== Science
21. British parliament approves cloning of embryos

=== Noted
22. Commentary: Even conspiracy theories can be true
23. Workshop to mine past for healing (VanPraagh)

=== CD-ROM
24. Encyclopaedia of Sikhism on CD


=== Falun Gong

1. One dead as five falungong set themselves on fire in Tiananmen
AFP, Jan. 23, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

Five members of the banned falungong spritual movement set themselves on fire in a mass suicide attempt which left one woman dead Tuesday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, witnesses and state media said.

The five, four women and a man, soaked themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze at two spots in the vast square in central Beijing at around 2:40 p.m. (0640 GMT), said the official Xinhua news agency.

The report said one woman died and the other four were taken to hospital by police. It said all five were from Kaifeng city in the central province of Henan.

A crew from US broadcaster CNN witnessed the incident and was briefly detained by police afterwards.
(...)

The suicide came as the Chinese government was bracing for mass protests by the spiritual movement in the square to mark Wednesday's Lunar New Year festival.

China's state-controlled media, which has launched a major new propaganda offensive against the movement, has accused falungong practitioners in the past of trying to commit suicide.

But the group insists suicide is against its principles and has denied the claims.

Sophie Xiao, a Hong Kong-based falungong spokeswoman, said the incident could not be linked with the movement and that it may be a plot by the government to smear the group.

''I don't think it is related to us. I don't think it's falungong members because the teacher always teaches us to use a peaceful approach to appeal to the government rather than in a radical way like taking life,'' she told AFP, referring to the group founder Li Hongzhi.

Several hours after the incident allegedly took place fire exstinguishers had been placed at points around the square for the first time.
(...)

The reported suicide came just several weeks after falungong founder and guru Li Hongzhi, who lives in New York, issued an ambiguous Internet message to followers which indicated the group was no longer prepared to passively accept the brutal crackdown from the government.
[...more...]


2. Falun Gong members set themselves on fire as protest, witness reports
CNN, Jan. 23, 2001
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Five members of the banned Falun Gong meditation group set themselves on fire Tuesday in China's Tiananmen Square, according to an eyewitness.

One of the five, a woman, died of injuries sustained in the fire.
[...more...]


3. CNN crew witnesses falungong Tiananmen suicide
AFP, Jan. 23, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

A CNN camera crew saw five falungong followers set themselves on fire in a mass suicide attempt in Tiananmen Square on Tuesday.

The witnesses confirmed a report by China's official news agency that five people, four women and a man, soaked themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze in Beijing's vast square at around 2:40 pm (0640 GMT).

The agency said one woman died and four others were injured.
[...entire item...]


4. China Says Five Falun Gong Members Self-Immolate
Reuters, Jan. 23, 2001
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's official Xinhua news agency said five members of the banned Falun Gong sect set fire to themselves Tuesday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in a planned mass suicide, and one woman died.

But Hong Kong-based members of the spiritual movement, which has so far adopted peaceful methods of protest in the face of a fierce crackdown, dismissed the report as part of a smear campaign by Chinese authorities.

There was no independent confirmation of the Xinhua story.
(...)

In Hong Kong, Falun Gong spokeswoman Yee Han Hui was skeptical of the Xinhua account.

''I think these people are probably not Falun Gong practitioners because we are told not to kill and, of course, not ourselves,'' she told Reuters.

''You can't believe Xinhua because it has slandered us for some time.''
Another spokeswoman, Ho Lai-Ha, said: ''We would not take such dramatic action.''
(...)

Since January 1, China's state media have stepped up attacks against Falun Gong and its founder, a Chinese former clerk who lives in exile in the United States.

Li denies having any political agenda.

But in a January 1 message posted on the group's official Web Site (www.clearwisdom.netOff-site Link), Li appeared to urge his followers to take more drastic action by telling them they could rightfully go beyond the movement's principle virtue of forbearance.

Until now protesters have rarely resisted detention, arrest or beatings by police and have even expressed sympathy with their captors, citing their belief in forbearance.
[...more...]


5. China spooked by its failure to crush falungong
AFP, Jan. 23, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

China's leadership is increasingly alarmed and divided by the failure of its often brutal campaign to destroy the falungong spiritual movement.

For 18 months the group has weathered an all-out assault, and despite the violent suppression of peaceful protests it still gathers hundreds of followers in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to mark key dates.
(...)

In a surprising admission of failure, China said earlier this month it had been unable to prevent hundreds of falungong from protesting daily in the square.

The leadership has since begun a new propaganda drive, describing the movement as a ''social cancer'' in an attempt to dispel the impression abroad it is persecuting religious believers.

''This indicates the government thinks falungong is getting stronger. falungong is also getting more intense, they are spreading flyers and other information,'' said Frank Lu, director of the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong.

Since falungong was banned in July 1999, the centre has chronicled 104 deaths in police custody.

Group leaders have been jailed for up to 18 years, while Lu estimates around 10,000 have been sent to labour camps.

But rather than buckle under the pressure the group is becoming more defiant.

Li Hongzhi, the former government official who leads the movement from New York, told followers at the turn of the year they no longer needed to adhere to the principle of ''forbearance'' when faced with persecution.
(...)

''They thought they would wipe out falungong in three months but they have failed and falungong has grown stronger,'' said Zhang Erping, one of the movement's US-based spokesmen.
(...)

The falungong reserves particular vitriol for President Jiang Zemin -- its websites carry scores of articles vilifying him as a vicious criminal -- and analysts agree his credibility is in the firing line.
[...more...]


6. falungong: the mysterious thorn in Beijing's side
AFP, Jan. 23, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

Nurtured by the spiritual void caused by the decline of communism and the rise of materialism, the banned falungong movement has emerged as a powerful and mysterious force in Chinese society.
(...)

China has sentenced 450 followers to prison, sent more than 600 to mental hospitals, placed 10,000 in labor camps and detains 50,000 at any given time, says the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
The center also says 104 followers have died in police custody.

But despite the campaign, falungong has stood defiant and remains the strongest threat to the government since the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

The group is viewed with a mixture of wonder and ridicule by many ordinary Chinese.

While there is little support for the beatings and arrests, many also think practitioners are misguided and quite a number believe the government's claim it is a cult.

Li's essays on the group's many websites are regularly downloaded, photocopied and widely distributed and can mobilize hundreds of people to protest in Tiananmen Square on key dates such as Wednesday's Lunar New Year.
(...)

Qigong popularity rose out of a need to fill a spiritual void. Rapid changes in the economy, such as massive layoffs, and relaxation of social controls left many wondering about the meaning of life.

Li taught his believers that illnesses are manifestations of bad deeds from previous lives which can be healed by practising falungong.

Practitioners believe quietly withstanding injustice will help them reach their ultimate aim of nirvana -- the Buddhist version of heaven -- after death.
(...)

falungong says Li possessed supernatural skills at an early age such as the ability to see the words ''Truth, Compassion and Forbearance'' -- the three tenets of falungong -- in the corner of his eyes at any time.

But during interviews Li has avoided questions about his claims to have supernatural powers, including the ability to fly.
[...more...]


7. China Braces For Falun Gong Protests Over Lunar New Year
Dow Jones, Jan. 22, 2001
http://asia.biz.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

BEIJING (AP)--Bracing for Lunar New Year protests by the banned Falun Gong sect, China's government on Monday warned that demonstrators would be punished harshly and urged the group's followers not to sacrifice themselves.

Front-page editorials in state newspapers accused Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi of political ambitions and said his calls to protest the ban were an evil plot to destabilize China.

''Obsessed'' Falun Gong followers must realize that an ''extremely brutal, extremely evil criminal intent'' lies behind the protests, said the Communist Party's flagship newspaper, People's Daily.

Don't become Li's ''sacrificial objects,'' the Beijing Daily said, warning followers that protesting made them ''enemies of the people.''

''Like a rat crossing the street that everyone shouts out to squash, they will suffer serious legal sanctions and ultimately receive the shameful fate of failure,'' the newspaper said.

The warnings are part of an intensifying crusade against the group aimed at deterring protests over the Lunar New Year, China's biggest holiday, which starts Wednesday.
[...more...]


8. Banned Sect Sells Works In Hong Kong As Beijing Complains
Dow Jones, Jan. 22, 2001
http://asia.biz.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG (AP)--The Falun Gong spiritual group, banned on the mainland but tolerated in Hong Kong, is selling works by its leader at two market kiosks, amid warnings from Beijing that the city should not be used for ''subversion.''

Pro-Beijing media have stepped up their criticism of the Falun Gong since it staged an international conference in Hong Kong a week ago.

''The group has used the territory to stage anti-state, anti-central government activities. This has escalated into an international and political anti-Chinese subversive tool,'' the Beijing-backed newspaper Wen Wei Po said in a commentary Monday.

The ominously worded editorial urged Hong Kong's government to keep the territory stable and to avoid being pulled into political turbulence by ''stamping out the illegal activities of the Falun Gong.''

Central government officials didn't respond immediately to requests for comment, but pro-Beijing newspapers often reflect the stance of the ruling communist party.

Falun Gong remains legal in Hong Kong, which has retained substantial autonomy and civil liberties since Britain returned it to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing has warned, however, that those freedoms don't include the right to engage in subversive activities.
(...)

The issue of what constitutes subversion remains a gray area for the territory, which has yet to enact planned legislation against that crime, as well as treason, sedition and theft of state secrets.
[...more...]


9. Key dates in emergence of China's banned falungong movement
AFP, Jan. 23, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

Following is a list of key events in the past 18 months which have seen the falungong spiritual movement branded the biggest threat to China's communist regime since the 1989 democracy protests.

April 25, 1999: More than 10,000 followers of the Buddhist-inspired sect sit down around the Chinese Communist Party headquarters in Beijing for an entire day, demanding the right to practise their meditation and breathing exercises. It was the largest demonstration in the capital since 1989, when democracy protestors were massacred on Tiananmen Square.

April 27: The authorities say they are prepared to listen to falungong grievances but warn of strict measures against any attempt to destabilise society.

May 3: Li Hongzhi, the sect's US-based guru, calls on Beijing to start dialogue with the movement which claims it has 80 million followers in China (two million according to the authorities).

June 6: First questioning of over 100 followers protesting in Beijing.

July 20-22: Thousands of followers rounded up throughout the country. By the end of the year at least 35,000 followers had been arrested, according to official statistics.

July 22: falungong is formally declared an ''illegal organisation.'' The move coincides with the launch of a media campaign accusing the movement of causing 1,500 deaths.

July 27: US State Department calls on Beijing to exercise restraint.

July 28: China issues an international arrest warrant against Li Hongzhi, accusing him of seeking to overturn the regime. Interpol refused to help with the warrant.

Oct 7: First case of falungong follower dying in police custody, announced from abroad.

Oct 21: 11 senior figures in the movement arrested.

Oct 25-Nov 1: A week of protests in Tiananmen square in Beijing as parliament adopts law officially branding falungong as an ''evil cult.''

Nov 12: First falungong ''show trials'' end with four followers sentenced to between two and 12 years prison. Hundreds of others sent to ''reeducation through labour'' camps for three years.

Dec 26: Four senior figures in the group sentenced to prison terms of seven to 18 years.

Feb 5, 2000: Dozens of followers protest in Tiananmen Square during the Chinese New Year.

Feb/March: Deaths in custody of 15 members disclosed. Several detained members stage hunger strike.

April 19: The official Xinhua news agency reports that a total of 84 falungong supporters have been given prison terms.

April 25: At least 100 members defy a security net to protest in Tiananmen Square on the first anniversary of their landmark mass demonstration against the Chinese government.

May 11: About 200 members protest in Tiananmen Square to mark their founder's birthday and are detained by police.

July 22: falungong members are kicked and badly beaten by police in Tiananmen Square in the most violent crackdown yet seen on the group since it was banned exactly one year ago.

October 1: Chinese police round up close to 1,000 protesting members of the falungong group during clashes in Tiananmen Square on China's National Day.

January 1: Chinese police detain about 1,000 protesting falungong members in one of the most violent clashes with police.

falungong founder Li Hongzhi issues a new year statement titled ''Beyond the Limits of Forbearance'' in which he for the first time he says his teachings make allowances for going beyond forbearance, one of the three principles of falungong. He says evil cannot be tolerated.

January: The government launches new propaganda offensive against the group, with daily reports in state-owned media accusing falungong of brainwashing members and misleading them into ruining their lives.

January 23: State news agency Xinhua says five falungong followers set themselves on fire in a mass suicide attempt, which left one dead. It was not immediately possible to confirm the report from independent sources.
[...entire item...]


=== Falun Gong - Reports from China's governmen-controlled/influenced media

10. China crackdown on Falun Gong publicity material reported
BBC Monitoring, Jan. 23, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

China has conducted a campaign against those either printing or disseminating Falun Gong material. The Xinhua report named individuals who have been sentenced for handling Falun gong material. The following is the text of report '''Falun Gong' illegal publicity materials violate laws and social ethics'' by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

Beijing, 21 January: People from all social circles recently said that ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations have ignored laws and regulations by printing, making, and distributing a great number of illegal publicity materials, and have violated state laws and regulations and disrupted social order. These acts are extremely despicable which have seriously violated social ethics.

Recently, acting on the command of Li Hongzhi and his ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations, ''Falun Gong'' die-hards have conducted unlawful activities by means of printing, making, and distributing illegal publicity materials. As briefed by public security organs, the content of the confiscated illegal publicity materials included materials to publicize false reasoning and heresies of ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult, to instigate people to violate laws and create disturbances, and to viciously spread rumours to slander the government and state leaders.

These illegal publicity materials were compiled and distributed outside Chinese territory by Li Hongzhi and his ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations and were reproduced, printed, and distributed in China by key members of ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations in order to create chaos.

Public security organs have dealt heavy blows to these new unlawful criminal activities launched by ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations. Thus far, more than 3,000 cases of unlawfully printing and spreading ''Falun Gong'' illegal publicity materials have been cracked and over 260 kinds and 330 copies of illegal publicity materials have been confiscated; over 2,000 computers, printers, duplicating machines, plate-making machines and other equipment have been seized and confiscated; and more than 1,000 criminal dens have been destroyed; a batch of ''Falun Gong'' law-breaking criminals have been captured.

These operations have effectively checked such unlawful criminal activities.
(...)

Guo Zhengyi, research fellow of the Chinese Science Popularization Institute, pointed out that the illegal publicity materials of ''Falun Gong'' heretical cult organizations are not general publicity materials but materials with a strong political aim in an attempt to overturn state regime and disrupt society. These publicity materials cannot win popular support, and the people involved must be punished according to law.
[...more...]


=== Scientology

11. Scientologist Web site rips off urban75.com
The Registers (England), jan. 22, 2001
http://www.theregister.co.uk/Off-site Link

A group of addiction treatment 'experts' called NarcononOff-site Link, which has ties to the controversial Church of Scientology, has performed a wholesale rip-off of the popular urban75 Web siteOff-site Link, which is devoted to raves, general partying and mirth-making, photography, sport, satire, and common-sense advice for drug users along the lines of, 'it's probably bad for you, but if you must, here's what you can expect from substance x').
(...)

The Narconon people have a good deal less humour and a good deal more revenue generation in mind with their pitch, claiming a success rate of 76 per cent for a programme originally developed in a large US penal institution.
(...)

According to urban75, the ''thieving bastards at Narconon (drug abuse 'charity' owned by the Scientologists) have ripped off a previous version of urban75 in its entirety:
(...)

The pages are indeed virtually indistinguishable, though one significant difference is Narconon's rat-your-friendsOff-site Link form, enabling surfers to send their own, or someone else's, personal details as a drug abuser to the cult. The page comes up when the ''contact us'' link is activated.
[...more...]
* Scientology and its front organizations are known for limiting free speech by trying to copyright everything in sight. Acting on advice from its master, L. Ron Hubbard, it abuses the legal system in harassing its critics - often alleging copyright violations.

More information about NarcononOff-site Link

Do not confuse NarCONnon with the legitimate drug addiction treatment called NarCANnon :) The following site includes an extensive news archive regarding Narconon:

http://www.crackpots.org/Off-site Link
"The Narconon ® organization has been exposed to be a Church of Scientology ® front which is in no way connected with the real drug addiction treatment program called Narcanon.
(...)
"


» Part 2