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China Arrests 11 Falun Gong Members for Posting Torture Photos on Internet  - 2004-12-30

An international media rights group says China jailed 11 people for using the Internet to post stories of alleged prison torture and abuse of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. China says the stories are pure fabrication.

Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based rights group, says Chinese authorities have arrested 11 members in December of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement for posting photos on the Internet, which the government tightly controls.

"The only way they have to criticize the government and tell the truth about what they are suffering in prison is to post articles and pictures on the Internet," said Julian Pan, of Reporters Without Borders.

The photos in question are staged, re-enactments of torture 47-year-old Falun Gong member, Liao Yuanhua, says he experienced during four years in jail.

In one photo, a prisoner's arm is twisted behind his back while he is beaten with a wooden chair. In another, a naked prisoner is strapped to his bed with his legs cuffed in iron shackles, while a guard uses bamboo spikes to slash his bare feet.

Chinese officials deny those claims and say the photos, which use actors and stage sets, are pure invention.

The Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong in 1999, on the grounds it is a subversive cult. Officials say the group uses brain washing and gives dangerous medical information to members.

But Mr. Pan says the latest arrests in December again highlight China's tradition of silencing dissent.

"You can't go against the authorities or you go immediately to jail," he said. "It just shows the Chinese authorities have no respect for freedom of expression."

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Falun Gong adherents have been arrested and detained in the past five years.

Members claim they are routinely subjected to torture while in state custody. Liao Yuanhua says he was burned, beaten, and forced to eat feces during his imprisonment.

Human rights advocates back the torture claims, saying they have been substantiated by eye witness reports.

In addition to the 11 arrested this month, Reporters without Borders says at least 20 other Falun Gong members are in custody for posting photos to the Internet.