China protests over Falun Gong-U.N. press

GENEVA (Reuters) - China's mission in Geneva Monday demanded that the U.N. Correspondents' Association cancel a meeting it organized for its members with representatives of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

But the meeting went ahead as scheduled in the Association's library -- which is treated by officials of the world body as having extra-territorial status -- rather than at the U.N.'s Palais des Nations European headquarters.

Falun Gong, which combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings, has been denounced by Chinese authorities as an "evil cult." It first shocked Beijing with a 10,000-person protest in April 1999 and was banned in China later that year.

A letter to the Association's acting president Tomasz Surdel, also sent to the U.N. Information Division, said the meeting "will deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and relations between China and the U.N."

The letter, handed to Surdel by a Chinese diplomat, added: "We strongly demand that such a meeting be canceled."

It described Falun Gong as "an evil cult," and said the organization "fabricates heretical fallacies, practices cult leader-worship, exercises mind control, violates fundamental human rights and creates social disturbance in China."

Surdel, a Polish citizen who works for the Warsaw Gazeta Wyborcza, said representatives from the mission or from anti-Falun Gong groups at the current session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, would be welcome if they asked for a similar meeting.

The United Nations has always supported the Association's right to hold such meetings with non-governmental organizations from many countries and representing a wide range of views, Surdel said.

Earlier in the day, members of the Falun Gong from around Europe demonstrated against what they say is official oppression of the movement in China on a square outside the Palais des Nations.

Since the six-week Human Rights Commission began last month, Chinese officials have distributed to reporters hundreds of publications and videos attacking the Falun Gong, which has legal recognition in Switzerland.