Monday, 25-Mar-2002 3:30PM
NEW YORK, March 25 (AFP) - China's banned Falungong spiritual group charged the communist authorities Monday with rounding up 5,000 of its members in a police sweep in northeast China and in which it claimed up to 100 practitioners were killed.
The sweep centred on the city of Changchun, capital of north-eastern Jilin Province, and came three weeks after Chinese President Jiang Zemin was accused by the group of ordering police to shoot practitioners in the area.
A Falungong statement issued here said that over 5,000 people believed to be members of the group had been detained in a "vast and unprecedented sweep."
It said reliable sources within China reported that "dozens or even as many as 100 or more might be dead already as a result of police brutality."
Falungong said that on March 7, Jiang had issued to shoot to kill orders after a group of practitioners tapped into the signal of several major television stations and broadcast footage exposing the government's campaign against the group.
Two practitioners accused by the authorities of mounting the stunt were condemned to death, the group said.
Falungong was banned by the Chinese government in 1999 and branded an evil sect, and has since faced the ire of law enforcement authorities, as tens of thousands of followers have been rounded up, jailed for long prison terms.
The group advocates clean, healthy living [...] while practicing group exercises and traditional Chinese meditation.
The United States frequently criticises China's treatment of Falungong and other religious groups.
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