DIARY: Chinese sect Falon Gong picks MWW Group to counter bad press in US

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

public image.

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.'

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