Asiaweek names Falun Gong founder most powerful communicator

HONG KONG, May 24 (Kyodo) - Li Hongzhi, founder of the Falun Gong movement, has been named the most powerful communicator in Asia this year for his ability to mobilize millions of followers, a regional magazine that compiled the ranking said Thursday.

Hong Kong-based Asiaweek listed Li ahead of Keiji Tachikawa, president of NTT DoCoMo Inc.; Ang Lee, director of award-winning film ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon''; Chinese President Jiang Zemin; and Vandana Shiva, worldwide antiglobalization activist; in the top five of its annual ''Power 50'' ranking.

The magazine said it has redefined power this year as ''those who can communicate -- or control the message'' because they are the ones who ''wield the greatest influence'' in today's information age.

''Li is a man of the moment. He has tapped into a spiritual void in a China that is plunging into capitalism,'' Dorinda Elliott, editor of Asiaweek, said in a statement.

''While we may not agree with his message or his methods, it is for his power to inspire, to mobilize people and to spook Beijing that we select Li as Asia's most influential communicator,'' Elliott said.

Li was ranked 38th in last year's list.

His Falun Gong has been outlawed in China, which has labeled the Buddhist-oriented spiritual movement an evil cult and ordered the arrest of Li. Still, the movement has millions of adherents in some 40 countries and territories.

As for other winners in the list, they include nine Japanese political and business leaders, four more than the figure last year.

Apart from Tachikawa, who came second for his first appearance, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi the eighth place, despite coming to power just last month.

Other new Japanese faces on the list are Tadashi Yanai, founder of Fast Retailing Co. (12th); pop singer Hikaru Utada (26th); Hiroshi Mikitani, founder of Rakuten (31st); and Oki Matsumoto, chief executive officer of e-broker Monex (40th).

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara rocketed up to the 19th from 37th last year, while Sony Corp. Chairman Nobuyuki Idei slid to the 22nd from third.

Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of Softbank Corp., was ninth this year, one place lower than last year's ranking.

This year also sees two returnees after being dropped from the list last year -- the Dalai Lama, who was in the 21st position, and Osama bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, in 23rd place.

Filipino ''cell phone texters'' who helped oust former Philippine President Joseph Estrada were given the 20th slot on the list. Estrada himself came 35th, down from last year's 24th.

Onel de Guzman, who was accused of creating the Love Bug computer virus, won 11th position.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, who topped last year's roll, declined to 13th.