In the all-time league table of unusual clients, outlawed Chinese
quasi-Buddhist sect Falun Gong must surely take some beating.
Hearty congratulations, then, to New York's MWW Group, which has been
taken on by the sect to publicise its cause in the US.
The appointment comes on the back of allegations that Chinese diplomats
abroad bad-mouth the group, creating negative media coverage and a poor
The group has asked MWW to turn the tide in its favour and is apparently
seeking further support from PR firms in Britain and Australia.
The religious sect, banned more than two years ago, has riled the
Chinese authorities to the extent that it was last week accused of
trying to undermine Beijing's ultimately successful bid for the 2008
summer Olympic Games.
The organisation was classed as 'subversive' in June this year, allowing
state authorities to treat the dissident followers more brutally, with
the body claiming that 255 of its members have been killed by Chinese
authorities in the past two years.
Describing itself as 'a traditional spiritual practice of mind and
body', the organisation claims to take no stance whatsoever on political
or economic issues.
A spokesperson for the group, Erping Zhang, reiterated the group's lack
of opposition to Jiang Zemin's regime or the Olympic bid, adding: 'What
we are against is the ruthless, persecution of millions of peace-loving
citizens who practice Falun Gong.'
MWW's head of public affairs, Bill Murray, admits: 'Since there is no
hierarchy to the group, it's been difficult to get them organised.'