Thursday, April 20, 2000

The mainland has apparently intensified its purge of the banned Falun Gong group by sacking the "sect-related" head of the nation's sports administration. The sacking came as Beijing trumpeted yesterday its victory over what it called US "hegemony" at the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

"Wu Shaozu, chairman of the State Administration for Sports, was removed and has been replaced by Yuan Weimin," said Shao Shiwei, a spokesman for the sports administration.

Li Zhijian, former deputy party secretary of the Beijing municipality, was named to replace Mr Wu in his role as party secretary in the sports administration, Mr Shao said.

He denied Mr Wu's removal was because of his support for qi gong groups, including the banned Falun Gong and Zhong Gong spiritual groups.

However, official sources in Beijing said Mr Wu tried to intervene on behalf of the groups before they were banned last year.

Beijing also announced yesterday it had sentenced An Jun, an independent anti-corruption campaigner, to four years' jail for subversion.

Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in China spokesman Frank Lu expressed concern over Beijing's oppression of dissidents and sect members.

An's China Corrupt Behavioural Observer, an independent watchdog of corruption in government, uncovered more than 100 cases of graft, but the Chinese Government refused to allow the group to officially register.

Mr Lu said the verdict on An was handed down by a court in Xinyang, in the central province of Henan, just hours after China foiled a United States-sponsored UN resolution condemning mainland human rights violations.

All major mainland dailies hailed China's success in quelling the resolution to condemn its rights record and blasted the US.

"Such a practice by US and some other Western countries of utilising the human rights issue as a political tool to create ideological confrontation and exercise hegemonism is a typical illustration of politicising the human rights issue," Xinhua quoted a Beijing official as saying.

Meanwhile, the China Education Daily reported that Falun Gong followers had been banned from taking university entrance exams, once assessments decided whether they were members.

About 91 Falun Gong-related cases involving 99 people had been heard by Chinese courts resulting in prison sentences for 84 of the defendants, a spokesman of the State Council said.