Wednesday 21 February 2001

China has admitted making extensive use of a much-criticised form of imprisonment without trial in its efforts to suppress the banned Falun Gong spiritual [group].

The practice of sending people to labor camps for "re-education" has been condemned by human rights groups abroad. They say Beijing may also be employing it to clear the streets of undesirables during its bid to stage the 2008 Olympic Games.

A thousand women followers of Falun Gong had been "successfully re-educated"at a "re-education through labor institute" in Liaoning province, the official People's Daily reported at the weekend.

It said the "tutors" at the Masanjia camp provided "loving care", helpingthe inmates to overcome their resistance to reform. Claims by the Falun Gong organisation abroad that many members had been tortured at Masanjia were denied.

The figures quoted for one camp give an idea of the magnitude of the operation against Falun Gong. The People's Daily said more than 300 inmateshad returned home from Masanjia after finishing "re-education terms"; 300 had terms reduced or were serving them "outside the facility".