Falungong calls on Russia to denounce 'organ trade' in China

Moscow, Russia - Representatives of the Falungong spiritual movement called on the Russian government to denounce what they claim is widespread torture and organ trafficking practised against members of the sect in China.

Sergei Skulkin, chairman of the movement's World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falungong, told journalists that the Chinese authorities run "concentration camps" where thousands of Falungong adherents have allegedly been killed for their organs.

"When Russia is developing increasingly close ties to China we cannot tolerate that our government doesn't take a clear position against torture of Falungong members," said Ivan Shkodiyuk, head of the sect's Russian branch, which claims 5,000 members.

The Falungong says it helps people purify themselves through exercise, meditation and Buddhist-based philosophy.

It claims 100 million members worldwide, including 70 million in China, where the group is banned and described by the authorities as an "evil cult".

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a respected human rights champion, said at the same press conference that totalitarian regimes always suppressed spirituality and said the banning of Falungong "reminds me of the USSR in the 1960s when they banned yoga."