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Banned Falun Gong Interrupts TV Programming in China - 2002-06-27

In China, members of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect have again hijacked TV satellites to interrupt programming. The first incident happened Sunday night. Instead of regular state television programming, Chinese viewers in parts of Shandong Province saw pro-Falun Gong messages flashing on their screens.

Then on Tuesday, residents of Yantai city, in Shandong, tuned in to find the message "Falun Gong is good" on their television sets for several seconds.

Frank Lu in Hong Kong is the director the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. He said mainland authorities have launched a massive investigation into what happened.

Mr. Lu said police in many provinces have been ordered to hunt down those who disrupted the television programs. He added the operation shows a good deal of sophistication since the Falun Gong would have needed an antenna more than three meters tall to interrupt the regular satellite television feed.

The Falun Gong said its members have resorted to taking over the airwaves briefly because they have no other means to express or share their beliefs in China. Sophie Xiao is a spokeswoman for the group in Hong Kong.

"These people didn't do anything wrong. They just believe in truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, and they practice spiritual beliefs," Ms. Xiao said. "They did nothing wrong to the government or the people. How come China can't tolerate this?"

She said Falun Gong activists in China are likely to stage similar protests as long as the government maintains its ban on the group.

The Falun Gong has disrupted television programs in at least four other Chinese cities this year. The other protests occurred in Harbin, Changchun and Anshan in the northeast and Chongqing in the southwest.

Last month, a Chinese court in Chongqing sentenced four members of the group to prison terms of up to 16 years. The court charged the Falun Gong followers with what it called using an evil cult to obstruct enforcement of the law, and sabotaging television broadcasts.

China banned the Falun Gong in 1999 as a public menace and threat to the government. The move came after thousands of Falun Gong followers staged a public demonstration outside of government offices in Beijing.

The ruling Communist Party has been taken by surprise by the size and organization of the group. The government alleges the Falun Gong urged followers to forgo needed medical treatments and uses brainwashing techniques.

In the three years the group has been banned, China has arrested thousands of members for re-education. Human rights groups charges scores of those detained have died in custody or mistreated.