Zhong Gong sect leader urges world to condemn China

HONG KONG, April 18 (Reuters) - The leader of a spiritual sect that has been banned in China has urged the United Nations to censure Beijing over its human rights record.

Zhang Hongbao, leader of the Zhong Gong sect, called on the U.N. to vote in favour of a U.S. resolution condemning China, the Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said in a statement on Wednesday.

The vote is scheduled to be taken later on Wednesday in Geneva.

In an open letter following his release from a 15-month detention by U.S. immigration authorities in Guam, Zhang also demanded the Chinese government free all jailed dissidents, the centre said.

Separately, it said Chinese authorities have embarked on a nationwide crackdown on meditation groups which has resulted in the closure of 185 meditation groups in the central province of Shanxi alone.

The Hong Kong-based group said also that the leader of the Shen Chang Human Anatomy Group has been arrested and will face charges in China for "using an evil cult to breach the law."

Shen Chang, the group's founder, was arrested last July in the south eastern Chinese city of Suzhou for tax evasion, the Hong Kong group said.

The Hong Kong group said on Wednesday that the Chinese government has also sought to crackdown on the Xiang Gong meditation group by closing down its headquarters in the central city of Luoyang last month.

Its founder, Tian Ruishen, has since gone missing and his family have been arrested, the centre said.

05:45 04-18-01