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China Announces Arrest of Secret Falun Gong Cell Leader - 2003-01-10

China says it has arrested the leader of a secret branch of the banned Falun Gong sect. China also accuses the group of colluding with Taiwanese pro-independence forces to upset social stability. A lengthy editorial in China's Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, Friday says police in southwestern China have raided an underground meeting place of the Falun Gong meditation group.

The article, also reprinted in other state media, says police in Fengjie, near the capital of Sichuan Province, arrested several of the group's members in October and confiscated books, flyers and videotapes. It says one of those arrested, 72-year-old Yu Xiaoru, was the leader of a secret Falun Gong cell, and accuses Mr. Yu of colluding with pro-independence forces in Taiwan to "sabotage social stability" in China.

State media say the underground organization in Fengjie received a steady stream of printed material from the Falun Gong in Taiwan for more than three years, and distributed them to local residents. The People's Daily says Mr. Yu has "confessed his guilt" and admitted to "collaborating with Taiwanese separatists to work against the reunification of the country."

China considers Taiwan its own territory and has vowed to reclaim the island, by force if necessary.

A spokeswoman for the Falun Gong in Hong Kong, Sophie Xiao, dismissed allegations that the group's followers collaborated with Taiwanese activists. I believe this is a groundless accusation," she said. "For the past three years we have demonstrated we're just a meditation group, we're apolitical and we're not interested in anything related to state affairs."

China banned the Falun Gong in 1999 as an evil cult, and has tried to wipe out support for the movement by jailing scores of its leaders and sending thousands of other members to re-education camps.

The group continues to defy the Chinese government, however, and has taken over state television signals in cities across the country to broadcast footage about the Falun Gong. Four Falun Gong members in the western Qinghai Province were recently sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for hijacking television systems to promote their spiritual beliefs.