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China put four leading members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement on trial today, cordoning off the courthouse in Beijing with scores of police to prevent protests by group members.

Police guarded the area around Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, questioning passers-by and warning journalists to leave.

Since the ban on the group was announced July 22, Falun Gong members have embarrassed the authorities by staging frequent peaceful protests in the square.

Falun Gong preaches a mixture of meditation and Buddhism, Taoism and the beliefs of group founder Li Hongzhi, an ex-government grain clerk who lives in New York.

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