China Has Detained
Over 35,000
Faalungong Followers
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained 35,792 followers of the outlawed Falungong spiritual group in the four months since the group was banned, a Hong Kong-based rights group said Monday.
New statistics on the nationwide crackdown were reported by Politburo Standing Committee member Li Lanqing at a meeting held in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing on Friday, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.
The meeting was attended by more than 3,000 officials from the propaganda bureau, the official worker's union, the military, the Beijing party committee, the armed police and other party organs, it said.
Most of the police action took place between July 20 and 22, when more than 26,000 followers of the banned group were rounded up around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
They had come to Beijing to lodge official complaints about the pending ban, the center said.
The Falungong group, which practices group morning breathing and meditation exercises and advocates clean living, was banned as a threat to Communist Party power on July 23.
More than 2,500 followers were rounded up in the weeks following the ban, while 4,230 people were detained in the last week of October as group members attempted to lodge official complaints over being labelled "a sect" by the state-controlled press.
Since the end of October, the government has been holding a series of trials against the leaders of the group who have been charged with using sects or "evil religion" to violate the law. Sentences have been as long as 12 years imprisonment.
The government has maintained they will only prosecute the leaders of the group which boasts tens of millions of followers, while ordinary followers will be released after undergoing "education" and "persuasion."
Most of the detainees are believed to have been released, although many have been sentenced to the administrative punishment of "education through labor."
"Since July 20, not a day has gone by that has been peaceful, not a day has gone by where Falungong members hoping to lodge complaints have not been detained," Li reportedly said at the meeting.
"The struggle against Falungong is a long-term arduous and complicated struggle as many Falungong members are universally headstrong and determined," he said.
Up to 60 Falungong members were detained daily during the visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to China earlier this month, while a student from the prestigious Qinghua University was grabbed before unfurling a Falungong banner during October 1 National Day festivities, it said.
No mention of Friday's meeting was made in the official press, although Xinhua news agency and the People's Daily on Saturday continued to editorialize the importance to the future of the Communist Party to completely eradicate the group.

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