China imprisons Falun Gong follower, lawyer says

Shanghai, China A Chinese woman who downloaded information about the banned Falun Gong sect and passed it to others has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison, her lawyer said on Friday.

Liu Jin, a former university librarian in Shanghai, was sentenced Nov 3, Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping confirmed in a telephone interview.

'This is common,' Mr Mo, who is well known for defending dissidents in China, said of the case and the sentence.

China banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement as an 'evil cult' and a threat to Communist rule in 1999, and human rights groups have accused the government of torturing and executing members.

Mr Mo confirmed that Liu printed out information from the Internet about the banned group and handed it out to others. He did not say to whom she handed the materials. Her trial on charges of 'using a heretical organisation to undermine implementation of the law' lasted less than a day, he said.

Calls to the Fengxian District Court in Shanghai where the trial took place rang unanswered on Friday.

Police arrested Liu and seized her home computer in Nov 2007, the New York-based Falun Dafa Information Center said in a statement on Friday.

The center, run by the Falun Gong, reported that her husband, Zhang Zhanjie, said his wife had suffered beatings and sleep deprivation while in detention.

Liu and Zhang have been imprisoned before for practicing Falun Gong, the statement said.

Falun Gong is a mix of traditional Chinese calisthenics and doctrines drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi.

The initially tolerated group startled Chinese leaders on April 25, 1999, when about 10,000 Falun Gong members stood silently around the Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing to protest criticism of the group by the state press.

The ban and crackdown soon followed. -- AP