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Hong Kong Businessman Indicted in China - 2002-01-07

A human rights group says a Hong Kong businessman has been indicted in China on charges of assisting a cult, after he allegedly tried to smuggle thousands of Bibles into mainland China. The case is the latest in a government crackdown on unauthorized religious activities.

The Hong Kong-based human rights group, Information Center for Rights and Democracy, says Li Guangqiang is expected to go on trial later this week on charges of using a cult to undermine law enforcement.

Lu Siqing, the head of the rights group, says that a court in Fuqing, southeastern China, accuses Mr. Li of shipping more than 33,000 Bibles to an underground Christian organization, called the Shouters, last April and May. The Christian group's name comes from its style of shouting out prayers during worship.

Mr. Lu says police in Fuqing arrested Mr. Li last May, and the court indicted him last month. He says two members of the Christian group also have been indicted.

Mr. Lu says that, according to China's law on what it calls evil cults, Mr. Li could face the death penalty. Mr. Li is believed to be the first Hong Kong resident indicted under the law.

Mr. Lu says, last month, a court in China's central province, Hubei, used its law on cults to sentence two members of another underground Christian church to death.

Rights groups estimate that China has banned at least 16 Christian organizations, which are seen as a threat to the government's monopoly on power. China adopted its anti-cult law in 1999 to support its crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement. The government says the Falun Gong group disturbs social order, and has caused more than 1,600 deaths.

Falun Gong representatives say that hundreds of its members have died in detention camps because of torture or mistreatment.