Friday, 12-Apr-2002 4:

HONG KONG, April 12 (AFP) - The Hong Kong Falun Gong called on Beijing to stop a "kill without pardon" order allegedly issued against mainland members after the broadcast of films about the group on a Chinese television network.

Some 100 members staged a sit-in protest on Friday in Chater Garden in the business district of Central to call on Chinese President Jiang Zemin to stop the persecution of practitioners on the mainland.

Falun Gong spokeswoman Hui Yee-han said Jiang had issued the "kill without pardon" order shortly after the group [used] the airwaves of a cable television network in the northeastern city of Changchun on March 5.

Hui said authorities in Changchun had launched a major crackdown on the group following the [video] broadcast, a major embarrassment to the city government. "We want Beijing to immediately terminate this appalling execution order on practitioners," she said.

Hui also alleged that authorities in Changchun had "fired pistols at Falun Gong [practitioners] when they go to distribute flyers in the city." The shots, aimed at the legs of practitioners, had injured "several" [practitioners], she said.

The group will also hold a candlelight vigil later Friday.

Police in China arrested 18 followers of the banned Falun Gong [group] on April 2 in connection with the [video] broadcast.

Two films, one focusing particularly on leader Li Hongzhi, originally from Changchun and now exiled to New York, were broadcast to much of the Changchun network of 300,000 subscribers, giving a potential audience of around one million.

According to Falun Gong, the two films were shown uninterrupted for around 40 to 50 minutes on March 5 on a number of channels in Changchun, Jilin province.

Since the banning of the group in July 1999, rights groups estimate that hundreds of Falun Gong [practitioners] have been given jail terms and tens of thousands sent to labour camps.

However, Falun Gong is not banned in Hong Kong, where it is protected by a degree of autonomy given the territory by the "one country, two systems" agreement under which the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.