China has rejected a report that it violated the human rights of members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement during a police crackdown that saw thousands of people taken into custody. China's Foreign Ministry said the human rights group that issued the report is "irresponsible" and wrong. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said there is no abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Mr. Kong said Human Rights Watch has issued several "irresponsible" reports in the past and this is more of the same.
Mr. Kong called the Falun Gong "anti-science and anti-human" and urged its followers to leave the group.
The group combines slow motion exercise with an eclectic mix of Buddhist and Taoist doctrine. Chinese officials banned Falun Gong more than two years ago as "an evil cult."
A new report by Human Rights Watch says China's government abused the human rights of Falun Gong members by arresting thousands of them and sending many to jail or labor camps for practicing their religion. Falun Gong officials outside China allege that hundreds of members have died in Chinese police custody and that officials routinely try to cover up killings, torture and other kinds of abuse.
About a year ago, five people set themselves on fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Some of the group died, others were horribly injured in the incident. China's government said the attempted suicides support its contention that Falun Gong is a dangerous group that should be banned as a threat to public safety.
Falun Gong spokesmen say their doctrine bans killing, including suicide. Since the Tiananmen Square incident, the number of public demonstrations by Falun Gong members has declined sharply.
China permits only approved religious groups to operate in the country. Dozens of others are banned, including Falun Gong, apparently because Beijing fears they challenge the authority of the Communist Party.