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|Thursday, August 24, 2000, updated at 09:16(GMT+8)|
China Convicts 151 Falun Gong-related CriminalsChinese courts nationwide, by August 15, convicted and meted out criminal penalties to 151 hard-core Falun Gong practitioners who committed crimes, said Ye Xiaowen, director-general of China's State Administration of Religious Affairs, at a press conference Wednesday in Los Angels.
Of the convicted, 22 were given sentences up to five years in prison, according to Ye, who also serves as an advisor to the visiting Chinese delegation of religious leaders.
He stressed that "the convicted are those who either leaked state secrets, or making use of Falun Gong to create social chaos, or committed other crimes."
Of the 2.1 million people practicing the Falun Gong cult in China, those prosecuted are only a tiny fraction, and the majority, or more than 98 percent, have been converted to normal life after persuasion and education for over a year, according to the most senior official in charge of religious affairs in China.
In response to local reporters' question on the stance of China 's religious circles on the government crackdown upon the Falun Gong cult, Buddhist master Sheng Hui said that the Falun Gong cult is just as harmful as narcotics, who "has no difference from drug traffickers."
"Due to its strong capability to control the mind of practitioners, more than 1,600 have committed suicide or been killed as a result of indulging in practicing the Falun Gong cult, and 650 people have serious mental problems, of whom 14 perpetrated the felony of homicide," he said.
The Buddhist master, who is vice-president of the China Buddhist Association, said that Buddhists were the first who identified Falun Gong as an evil cult as early as 1996, three years ahead of government crackdown, because the cult "stole" many concepts of Buddhism and distorted them for evil purposes.
Both Ye and the Buddhist master warned the public that Falun Gong is so cunning that it usually takes on different cloaks to cheat people, which is why it fooled so many people both in China and the world at large.
"When the Chinese Qigong was popular, the master of Falun Gong Li Hongzhi said he was practicing Qigong for the good of health, and seeing that religions were respected in China, he said he was a religious leader," said master Sheng Hui.
"He is a wildcatter," he said.
Commenting on the big advertisements run by the Falun Gong group in major U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times, saying that Falun Gong is Qigong again, Ye said that Li Hongzhi is just playing another trick to fool the public, Ye said.
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