Sat, 11 Aug 2001 3:25 AEST

Practitioners of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong are reportedly turning to hunger strikes inside Chinese labour camps, in their campaign against the Chinese Government.

The largest appears to be underway in one of the country's biggest detention centres.

Falun Gong supporters outside China claim that at least 130 practitioners are into the second week of a hunger strike inside the Masanjia camp in north-eastern Liaoning province.

They say the protest was sparked by the authorities' refusal to let them free when their one-year sentences ended last month.

China has been under international pressure to scrap its system of labour camps that allow detention for up to three years without trial.

A group spokeswoman in New York called for immediate international action to help free the hunger strikers. But China's leaders show no signs of relenting.

In a newspaper interview President Jiang Zemin says the government will continue its crackdown against what he calls [Jiang Zemin government's slanderous term omitted].