BEIJING, Jan. 12 (AP) - China's Communist Party has ordered redoubled efforts to expose and attack the outlawed Falun Gong sect, days before followers of the group gather in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

``Thoroughly criticize the Falun Gong cult's political nature and threat to society, and the broad masses will increase their resistance to the threat of cults,'' Propaganda Minister Ding Guangen told heads of government propaganda departments.

``They must fully recognize the duration, complexity and ferocity of our battle with Falun Gong,'' Ding said in the speech, carried Friday in the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily.

Frustrated by Falun Gong's defiance of an 18-month crackdown, China's government has recently stepped up its rhetoric against the spiritual group. China's wholly state-run media accused Falun Gong of conspiring with anti-Chinese forces in the West as well as "separatists" in Taiwan and Tibet.

If anything, Falun Gong's resistance may be increasing, with state media last week making the rare disclosure that hundreds of followers have protested on Beijing's Tiananmen Square each day since December.

The renewed government campaign comes as 1,000 Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) followers gather for a rally and conference this weekend in the former British colony of Hong Kong, where the sect remains legal despite being banned elsewhere in China.

On Friday, the state-run Beijing Daily accused Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk living in the United States, of trying to disrupt social order and overthrow communism ``in the name of so-called democracy and human rights.''

``There's a lot of slander on our Master Li,'' said Hui Yee-han, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in Hong Kong. ``There's nothing new, but it's becoming more apparent.''

On Wednesday, state-run China Central Television showed unusual footage of Falun Gong members protesting in Tiananmen Square in an apparent attempt to control how the public views the blatant acts of defiance in the nation's most sacred political space.

The TV showed interviews with people it identified as detained Falun Gong followers at a police station near the square, who claimed they were ``aliens'' and ``divine beings.'' It also said several had attempted suicide after arrest.

Not shown were the beatings police regularly dish out to group members when arresting them.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in China during the 1990s with a mix of meditation, slow-motion physical exercises and a hybrid philosophy drawn from Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of founder Li.

China banned the group as a public menace and threat to party rule and has accused it of misleading followers and causing 1,600 deaths, mainly among believers who sought spiritual healing rather than modern medical treatment.

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