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August 23, 2017

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Japan Falun Gong members to rally against China

TOKYO -- About 200 members of the Falun Gong spiritual group planned to rally in Japan Saturday against China, which 10 years ago banned the movement as an "evil cult," the group said in a statement.

The protest was planned in the port city of Yokohama south of Tokyo.

Falun Gong followers in a Tokyo news conference Friday said that their relatives had been tortured and killed by Chinese authorities.

Zhang Yanhui, 31, a university student in Japan, told reporters that his cousin died in Chinese police custody in 2002.

"He was arrested when he was travelling to petition against the persecution of Falun Gong followers," Zhang said.

"They took his money, and he was beaten and tortured in prison."

Zhang gave a graphic description, alleging that when his family went to claim the body, they found that several of his cousin's organs had been removed.

"We strongly protest against the Chinese communists," Zhang told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "We call on the good people in the international community to help stop the persecution."

Falun Gong first emerged in 1992 behind charismatic leader Li Hongzhi, who preached "truth, compassion and forbearance" while promising better health through group meditation and breathing exercises.

His ideas were loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies.

China outlawed the group that once boasted up to 70 million followers after more than 10,000 practitioners gathered around the Communist Party's Beijing headquarters on April 25, 1999 in protest against the pending crackdown.

According to the exiled Falun Dafa Information Centre, "several hundred thousand" followers have been jailed without trial in Chinese labor camps and up to 3,000 followers have died through torture and beatings.

The Falun Gong is legal in Japan, where the group has often staged rallies.

Hundreds of Falun Gong followers marched last year in the central city of Nagano when the Beijing Olympic Games torch relay passed through Japan.

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