In a further step of repression, China has given long prison sentences to four leaders of the Falun Gong religious movement. Their crime: determined adherence to the meditative practices of that group.
An added crime: all four are Communist Party members, and hence, in the eyes of its leadership, heretics.
But in a country where spiritual aspirations are growing - and in a world where democracy is on the rise - the real heresy lies with China's Communist hierarchy. Their orthodoxy of tight central control is slipping ever further to the fringe.
Thoughtful Chinese will see through efforts to politically demonize groups like Falun Gong. They'll see, increasingly, that the real danger to China lies in a one-party government that refuses to change with the times.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society