WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 -- China's opposition to foreign involvement in its handling ofthe outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group has prompted a Dutch governmentofficial to postpone a scheduled visit to the country.

"The trip has been postponed because we thought the idealcircumstances under which it should take place were not there," said aspokesman for Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias Van Aartsen, according toReuters.

China's foreign ministry had announced Monday it opposedinterference from foreign governments in its dealings with Falun Gong.The news came two days before Van Aartsen was scheduled to arrive inChina.

A Falun Gong spokeswoman said the meeting with Van Aartsen would nothave been political. She said the group simply wanted to make known itsdispleasure with China's treatment of the group, which has been bannedin China since July of 1999.

Authorities branded Falun Gong -- a combination of traditionalChinese meditation exercises and Buddhist and Taoist principles -- an"evil cult" and a threat to the Communist Party.

Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested since then,and movement leaders have been sentenced to prison terms as long as 18years. But adherents insist Falun Gong -- also called Falun Dafna -- simply promotes good health and mental well-being.

Earlier this month a judge and nine students were sentenced inseparate cases for their involvement with the group.

Provincial high court judge Hu Qingyun received a seven-year prisonterm on Jan. 10, according to the Information Center for Human Rightsand Democracy. The group is based in Hong Kong, where Falun Gong islegal.

The judge, who had already been in detention for a year and a half,was accused of "engaging in illegal business" by selling books aboutFalun Gong.

In central China's Hubei province, nine students in Wuhan city weregiven two- to six-year prison terms for distributing information aboutFalun Gong and encouraging others to participate in demonstrations.

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