BEIJING, Jan. 5 (AP) - China on Friday accused the outlawed Falun Gong group of growing more ``disruptive'' in its protests, days after its leader made a rare appeal to followers to escalate their struggle against Beijing.

An article in several state-run newspapers blamed sect leader Li Hongzhi for inciting members to extreme acts that upset public order and provoked clashes with police.

``Recently, Falun Gong has become more and more disruptive and noisy, fully displaying Falun Gong's true nature as an evil cult,'' the article said.

``Some extreme elements of Falun Gong have even gone so far as to try to commit suicide on Tiananmen Square, to try to make a big impact and soil the image of the motherland,'' the article said.

The article also accused the group of resorting to novel methods to spread its ``illegal propaganda,'' saying police seized 16 pigeons that sect members had intended to release on Tiananmen Square.

Beijing has been alarmed by Falun Gong's ability to keep staging protests in Tiananmen Square - China's most politically symbolic public monument - despite an 18-month crackdown.

If anything, the sect in recent months appears to have stepped up protests, which have taken place almost daily on the Square in central Beijing where Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

One of the largest, with hundreds of arrests, took place Oct. 1, the 51st anniversary of Mao's declaration. Most involve no more than a dozen protesters, unfurling banners or chanting slogans.

The government has responded by stationing busloads of plainclothes and uniformed police in the Square almost around the clock. Violence is common, with protesters often bloodied in full view of crowds before being dragged away.

A message posted New Years Day on a sect Web site attributed to sect leader Li condemned such behavior as ``going beyond the limits of Forbearance,'' one of the group's central principles.

``The way the evil are currently performing shows that they are already utterly inhuman and completely without righteous thoughts,'' the message said. Li, a former government grain clerk who now lives in the United States, has remained silent for long periods during the crackdown, giving his Web statement even more importance.

``Such evil's persecution ... can thus no longer be tolerated,'' the message warned.

China outlawed Falun Gong -- also called Falun Dafna -- in July 1999 as an evil cult that caused the deaths of more than 1,500 members. The Communist Party apparently saw the groups size and organization as a threat to its monopoly on power. Falun Gong attracted tens of millions of followers in the 1990s with its blend of exercises and spiritual teachings.

Rights groups say police have detained as many as 10,000 followers in the crackdown. Most have been held only briefly, but more than 150 organizers have been given prison terms of up to 18 years.

Rights groups say at least 92 sect members have died in police custody, including four last month.

Falun Gong combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese qigong meditative and physical exercises. Beijing's campaign against the spiritual movement is part of a larger effort to control all religious practice in China.

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