Beijing is trying to legitimise its two-year crackdown on Falun Gong by placing it in the same category as terrorist organisations. In a three-day national conference on religion that ended on Wednesday, leaders repeatedly said Falun Gong was not a religion but an evil cult, with some members practising violent and terrorist acts. The state propaganda machine reinforced the conference's message by broadcasting that a fanatical Falun Gong practitioner in Hainan was arrested on Tuesday for killing his uncle with a kitchen knife so they could attain salvation. Qiu Defeng, 29, of Yutang village, Chengmai county, allegedly set the house of his uncle Qiu Junxian, 68, on fire after murdering him. Qiu allegedly told police he planned to commit suicide, so that, together with his uncle, he could attain Nirvana, Xinhua said. Premier Zhu Rongji echoed President Jiang Zemin's message in his speech, which said the evil cult had cheated and blinded the masses in the name of religion, endangering society. Mr Zhu warned that other evil cults could spring up. The central Government has issued internal circulars during the past two years urging party units to root out Falun Gong practitioners as well as underground church activists. The fact that this week's conference sought to publicise this long-term crackdown shows party leaders still see the Falun Gong and underground churches as a serious threat to party unity, especially at grassroots level. Mr Jiang's and Mr Zhu's repeated calls urging grassroots cadres to root out evil cults and terrorist practices carried out in the name of ethnic minority religion - targeting Uygur separatists in Xinjiang - show that leaders are not satisfied with controls on religion at the local level. Beijing has used the global fight against terrorism following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon to justify its crackdown. It is expected that an intensified purge will be carried out in areas such as Hubei and Hunan provinces where underground churches are active, in provinces where Falun Gong members remain defiant and in Xinjiang, where Muslim separatists are becoming more resistant. Mr Jiang has tacitly acknowledged international criticism on the issue, telling the meeting that China should 'strengthen propaganda' on 'the reality of the situation'. China must seek to counter international criticism of its policies towards religion, he said. He has long been seen as the prime mover behind the two-year crackdown on Falun Gong that has resulted in the jailing of tens of thousands of followers without trials.