The Falun Gong is voicing outrage after China sentenced four members of the banned group to lengthy prison terms. The four have been charged with hacking into a TV station in southwestern China and broadcasting material about their group.
Hong Kong-based members of the Falun Gong are denouncing the weekend ruling by a Chinese court in the southwestern city of Chongqing. Ms. Hui Yee-han, spokesperson for the group in Hong Kong, says some Falun Gong followers in China disrupted state television programming because they have no other means to express their beliefs. "There are no more channels for Falun Gong practitioners to voice their grievances. All the news people in China can get hold of are from CCTV or state-controlled media, and all the news about the Falun Gong is slander," Ms. Hui said.
Ms. Hui says the group is peaceful, and encourages truth, compassion and forbearance.
China's official Xinhua News agency says an intermediate court in Chongqing Friday convicted four Falun Gong followers for what it called using an evil cult to obstruct enforcement of the law and for sabotaging television broadcasts.
The January 1st broadcast by Falun Gong interrupted regular programming for some viewers and had what Xinhua calls extremely bad social effects.
One of the Falun Gong members, Jin Wei, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for organizing the broadcast. Li Xiangdong was handed a 15-year jail term, and two others were sentenced to terms of at least seven years. Xinhua says a fifth follower involved in the broadcast has died of illness since the group's arrest.
The Falun Gong has hacked into television stations in several other northeastern Chinese cities this year to broadcast material about their group.
The Falun Gong says that since China banned its group in 1999, hundreds of its followers have died from torture or mistreatment in detention camps.
China has banned Falung Gong as an evil cult. The government claims the group deludes its members and has caused more than 1,600 deaths.