Beijing State media on Friday accused followers of the Falun Gong meditation sect of violence and murder, and labeled its founder an agent of anti-China forces abroad.
The diatribe came on the eve of the first anniversary of China's outlawing of the sect and followed another day of protests in Beijing's sprawling Tiananmen Square.
As school groups on holiday thronged the plaza, one man stood shouting "Falun Gong is good." Police grabbed him, jerked his hair and shoved him inside a waiting van.
In another police van packed with mostly middle-aged followers, a woman shouted and officers closed the window blinds. From inside, a slapping sound could be heard. The crowd that had gathered outside winced at the sound and turned their heads.
At least two dozen Falun Gong followers were carted out of the square.
"Our government has no conscience," said a young man surnamed Li, a Falun Gong practitioner for four years. "People who practice Falun Gong are all good people."
In one of the most strident attacks on the meditation sect, the government's Xinhua News Agency accused Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi of inspiring protests by promising salvation for those who "wholly embrace Buddhist law" and damnation for those who refuse.
"This nakedly provokes those 'Falun Gong' followers in whom the poison has settled most deeply to throw themselves on the front line, to become 'cannon fodder' and articles of sacrifice," said the article, which was also read on the main evening news broadcast.
Some among the hardcore of Falun Gong followers have resorted to "violent resistance of the execution of law, disturbing social order," the Xinhua article said.
The article listed instances of what it called cult-inspired violence, including the murder of his mother and father by 33-year-old follower Zhu Changjiu. Zhu, from northern China's Hebei province, pummeled his 73-year-old parents to death with a blunt object in a fit of rage after they burned his copy of the Falun Gong manual, Xinhua said.
Falun Gong has evolved from an "anti-science, anti-humankind, anti-society cult organization into a political organization openly opposing the government and a tool of overseas anti-China forces," the official Chinese agency said.
One year ago Thursday, police began rounding up key Falun Gong organizers. The group was banned two days later.
Falun Gong followers have streamed into Beijing this month from around China to renew their civil disobedience campaign. In recent weeks, police have detained about 200 followers daily in Tiananmen Square, according to a Communist Party official.
Founded eight years ago, Falun Gong attracted millions of followers, drawn by its blend of slow-motion exercises and ideas drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and its founder Li Hongzhi, an ex-government grain clerk who lived in New York for a time but whose current location is not known. Followers say Falun Gong promotes health, moral living and, in experts, supernatural powers.
Chinese leaders have declared the group a public menace and an unprecedented threat to Communist Party rule. It has accused the group of cheating followers, driving some to insanity, and causing 1,500 deaths, mostly among practitioners who refused medical treatment, an alleged tenet of its founder.