China jails sect member for tax evasion-HK group

HONG KONG, Sept 10 (Reuters) - A Chinese court has sentenced a key member of the banned Zhong Gong spiritual group to seven years in jail for refusing to pay taxes, a Hong Kong-based rights group said on Monday.

Zhou Xinyang, 46, of central Hunan province was arrested in October 1999 for "subverting state power," but was prosecuted and jailed on August 30 for the apparently less serious offence, said the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy.

Zhou is appealing the sentence, it said.

The founder of the sect, Zhang Hongbao, was granted U.S. asylum in June despite demands from Beijing that he be repatriated to face rape charges.

The sect, started in 1987 in China and which boasted a following of some 38 million people by 1990, has repeatedly denied the rape accusations.

03:09 09-10-01

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