Beijing warns US over Falun Gong

Beijing, China - Beijing has warned the United States against associating with the Falun Gong after Washington said it may fund a group linked to the spiritual sect, which is banned on the mainland.

The comments came as the two sides prepared for a human rights dialogue in Washington after a two-year hiatus.

"We firmly oppose any government or organization providing support to anti- China forces in their anti-China activities," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu after a State Department official confirmed the US government was in talks on funding an internet freedom group composed mainly of Falun Gong practitioners in exile.

The Global Internet Freedom Consortium offers software to circumvent internet censorship worldwide.

"The process is ongoing," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said of the possible funding plan. "They have submitted a proposal, but no final decisions have been made."

The Falun Gong, whose Buddhist- inspired teachings focus on martial arts- like exercises, was banned by Beijing in 1999 and branded an "evil cult."

The group alleges its practitioners are treated brutally in China or even killed.

Ma said he hoped the two-day rights dialogue could lead to better relations but also indicated that Washington must respect China's position.

"China would like to work on the basis of equality and mutual respect to conduct dialogue and communication with the US in the field of human rights," he said.

The talks will be the first under President Barack Obama. He has been criticized by activists, who say he has played down rights in his quest for broader ties with Beijing.