NEW YORK - With signs the United States is emerging from recession, the 32nd annual World Economic Forum began Thursday with discussions on where the global economy is headed and how to deal with terrorism.
Against a backdrop of generally peaceful demonstrations and scattered vandalism targeting symbols of corporate America, some 3,000 international business, political, academic and religious figures met at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel behind phalanxes of police.
Some 4,000 police were on duty, with so many concentrated around the conference site it reminded some New Yorkers of the intense security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Despite the high state of alert, there were few arrests, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani predicted police would maintain order.
"This is a peaceful city, this is a city that understands diversity, this is a city that understands how to deal with large meetings," said Giuliani, who was instrumental in bringing the forum to New York partly in solidarity following Sept. 11.
At a news conference, a top official of a private industry group predicted the U.S. economy will grow 1.5 percent in 2002.
"My view is that the U.S. recession is over, that November will be viewed as the trough," said Gail Fosler, chief economist at the Conference Board, a business-financed group that issues influential monthly economic reports.
Europe's recovery will probably take hold in the third and fourth quarters but the pace could be slower than in the United States, said Klaus Zimmerman, president of the German Institute for Economic Research.
"We're struggling with the sins of the past in terms of government spending," he said.
The outlook for Japan remains bleak, said Jacob Frenkel, former head of Israel's central bank who is president of Merrill Lynch & Co.'s international division.
Japan "will stay in a recession until it deals with its financial system and banking sector properly," he said.
Besides the worldwide economy, the five-day forum is focusing on such topics as improving security and alleviating poverty around the globe.
A panel of international security experts warned the Bush administration against using force on other countries, saying that could hurt relations with its allies.
They said President Bush should use diplomacy instead of military might in his dealings with Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which were identified as rogue states in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
"If you topple Saddam Hussein, there will be another Saddam Hussein somewhere else," said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International Affairs and Security.
At another seminar, Alain Dieckhoff, research director at France's Center for International Studies and Research, said the best way to combat terrorism is to build a strong middle class. "When you have that, it's easier to have democratic values and practices," he said.
The forum also offered a chance for diplomacy. Palestinian officials said their parliament speaker, Ahmed Qureia, planned to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who is attending the forum.
Among the forum's other participants are King Abdullah II of Jordan; Kofi Annan, secretary-general of United Nations; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president of Philippines; Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive of Dell Computer, and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. President Bush won't attend, but is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.
Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, had been scheduled to give opening remarks Thursday afternoon but canceled his appearance because he had to meet in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, forum spokesman Charles McLean said.
Outside, police in riot gear stood guard while other officers rerouted traffic and kept protesters behind concrete barriers ringing the site.
Five women were charged with trespassing and reckless endangerment in lower Manhattan for climbing to a building rooftop and unfurling a banner that read, "Bush and big biz agree that people with AIDS drop dead." Police also reported vandalism at several chain businesses around Manhattan.
A man was arrested for defacing the front door of a Starbucks coffee shop, police said.
About two blocks from the Waldorf, several hundred followers of the Chinese meditation sect Falun Gong - which is banned in China - did slow-motion bending and stretching exercises in a cold drizzle behind a police barricade where they hung a banner saying "Help Stop State Terrorism in China." Nearby, a dozen environmentalists, outnumbered by reporters and camera crews, chanted, "WEF, you are the weakest link - goodbye!" Police officers wearing olive green military helmets and flak jackets looked on. A few officers toted black submachine guns.
Authorities hoped to avoid a repeat of last year's World Economic Forum at its traditional site in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Protesters there smashed windows, burned cars and clashed with police.
A Trinity College student and Falun Gong practitioner who has been imprisoned in a Chinese labour camp for more than two years will be freed this March, according to the Department for Foreign Affairs.
A spokesman for the department said the Chinese authorities agreed to release Zhao Ming during minister Brian Cowen's trip to the country this week.
Zhao was studying computer sciences in Dublin when he was arrested during a visit to China at christmas 1999.
The Chinese government says Falun Gong is a "terrorist" cult responsible for the deaths of more than 1,600 of its followers.
However, it agreed to release Mr Zhao because he has been sufficiently "re-educated".
Zhao's supporters in Ireland have accused the Chinese authorities of torturing him in various prison camps.
They said the 30-year-old student was forced to undergo "brain-washing" sessions and forced to stand still for up to 18 hours a day.
They also said he was tortured into signing statements denouncing Falun Gong.
Both the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and President Mary McAleese raised the case with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji during his controversial visit to Ireland last year.
The Chinese authorities have now apparently agreed to release Zhao on March 12 and have told the Irish Government that he will be free to apply to return to Ireland to continue his studies.
The Chinese have insisted he was not ill-treated during his detention.
After Connie Chipkar's youngest son died from leukemia at nine years of age, the mother of four entered a 20-year spiral of depression.
Her life changed four years ago when she discovered the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
"I have never seen her so peaceful as she has been for the past four years," said son Joel, also a follower of Falun Gong for the past three years.
The 61-year-old woman, from Mississauga, was arrested today after becoming the latest in a series of westerners who took the movement's message to the heart of China's capital.
In the middle of Tiananmen Square, she sported a sash that read: ''Falun Gong" and "SOS."
Standing in the huge square while curious Chinese tourists watched, The Associated Press reported she sang and held out her arms before a uniformed officer and others in civilian clothes loaded her into a police van that drove her away.
The protest lasted only a few minutes.
A spokesperson for Canada's Foreign Affairs department confirmed that Chipkar had been detained.
"Yes, we've been informed of the possible detention of Mrs. Chipkar," said Reynald Doiron.
"We are dealing with the Chinese authorities."
Joel Chipkar said Canada's Foreign Affairs department called him at around 9 a.m. to confirm that his mother had been detained by the Chinese.
He made a similar journey in November and filmed the arrest of Zenon Dolnyckyj, 23, of Toronto, and almost three dozen westerners, who were later expelled.
Even before he got the call from federal officials, Joel suspected his mother had been arrested when she failed to call as scheduled Tuesday evening.
"There are very few who do it and walk away."
He said his mom arrived in China on Tuesday with the goal of informing Chinese citizens that their government was lying to them about the spiritual movement that is practised around the world.
Police have detained thousands of Chinese followers, often beating and kicking them, on Tiananmen Square since the government outlawed Falun Gong in July 1999 as a threat to society and the Communist Party's grip on power.
Connie Chipkar's protest today's fell on the first anniversary of a fiery group suicide attempt on the square that Chinese authorities blamed on Falun Gong.
On Jan. 23, 2001, five people doused themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire. One woman died on the spot and her 12-year-old daughter died later in hospital.
State media have been running prominent reports this week on the suicide attempt in a renewed effort to discredit Falun Gong.
National television and newspapers carried interviews with the badly scarred survivors, who were quoted denouncing Falun Gong. The newspaper Beijing Youth Daily quoted from what it said was an open letter from them to Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi accusing him of misleading them.
"You were leading us to embark on a road against society, against the government and against humanity," the letter was quoted as saying.
Li, a former Chinese government clerk, lives in the United States.
Most protests against the ban on Falun Gong have been by Chinese members of the sect.
But in recent months, there have also been scattered protests by foreign supporters.
The government says Falun Gong is a cult and blames it for more than 1,600 deaths, mostly followers it claims were driven insane or to murder, or encouraged to use meditation instead of medicine to treat illness.
Falun Gong accuses Chinese authorities of torturing and mistreating detainees. It says 350 have been killed, 500 sentenced to prison, more than 1,000 sent to mental hospitals and 20,000 detained in labour camps.
BEIJING - A Canadian follower of Falun Gong was expelled from China on Thursday after being detained for protesting on Tiananmen Square in Beijing against the country's ban on the spiritual group, a Canadian diplomat said.
Connie Chipkar, 61, left aboard a British Airways flight for London, said Charles Reeves, spokesman for the Canadian Embassy.
Chipkar, a former teacher from Welland, Ontario, was detained Wednesday after she sang and held out her arms on Tiananmen Square. She was wearing a sash that read ``Falun Gong'' and ``SOS.''
The square is the symbolic political heart of China and the site of frequent protests by Falun Gong supporters. Chipkar's son took part in a demonstration there in November by 35 Western followers of the group. They also were detained and expelled.
Chipkar was held overnight at a Beijing hotel but wasn't arrested, Reeves said. He said Chinese officials described her expulsion by saying they had ``shortened her stay.''
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Chipkar was ``was making trouble in Tiananmen Square.''
``Her actions broke the laws of the People's Republic of China on gatherings and parades and related laws and regulations on cults,'' said spokesman Sun Yuxi.
Sun said officials had warned Chipkar and asked her to leave China.
China banned Falun Gong in July 1999 as a threat to communist rule and contends the group is a dangerous cult.
Police have detained thousands of Chinese followers of Falun Gong during protests on Tiananmen Square against the ban, often beating and kicking them.
Falun Gong accuses Chinese authorities of torturing and mistreating detainees. It says 350 have been killed, 500 sentenced to prison, more than 1,000 sent to mental hospitals and 20,000 detained in labor camps.
Reeves said he didn't know of any penalty imposed on Chipkar. The Westerners expelled after the November demonstration said they had been banned from visiting China for five years.
Chipkar's protest fell on the first anniversary of a group suicide attempt on Tiananmen Square that the government blamed on Falun Gong. Five people doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire. A woman and her 12-year-old daughter died.
Chinese authorities have been publicizing the Jan. 23, 2001, event anew this week in a renewed effort to discredit the group.
Most protests against the ban on Falun Gong have been by Chinese members, but there have been scattered protests in recent months by foreign supporters.
Chipkar's son, Joel, said in Canada that his mother turned to Falun Gong in 1998 after years of depression over the death of another son from cancer.
``When she started to practice Falun Gong, I saw her face just lift and she became very, very peaceful and compassionate,'' said Joel Chipkar.
BEIJING -- A Canadian supporter of the Falun Gong spiritual movement protested China's ban on the group Wednesday, and was quickly taken from Tiananmen Square by security agents.
The gray-haired demonstrator wore a sash emblazoned with the words: ``Falun Gong'' and ``SOS.'' Standing in the huge square while Chinese tourists watched, she sang and held out her arms before a uniformed officer and others in civilian clothes loaded her into a police van.
A Falun Gong practitioner in Canada, Joel Chipkar, said from Toronto that Canada's foreign affairs department confirmed that his mother, Connie Chipkar, 61, had been taken into custody.
Police have detained thousands of Chinese followers on Tiananmen Square since the government outlawed Falun Gong in 1999 as a threat to society and the Communist Party's grip on power.
The protest Wednesday fell on the first anniversary of a fiery group suicide attempt on the square that Chinese authorities blamed on Falun Gong. Two people died after five set themselves on fire.
Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese government clerk, lives in the United States.
The government says Falun Gong is a cult and blames it for more than 1,600 deaths. Falun Gong accuses Chinese authorities of torturing and mistreating detainees. It says 350 followers have been killed by authorities.
China today marked the one year anniversary of a mass suicide attempt by members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect by broadcasting denunciations of the sect by survivors of the grisly incident.
State television carried interviews with three survivors of the self-immolation bid in Tiananmen Square in which a mother and her daughter were burned to death.
The incident shocked the nation but also worked to greatly boost the government's three-year effort to smash the group. advertisement Wang Jindong, 51, leader of the suicide group and now serving 15 years for "using an evil cult to organise homicide," said not a day has gone by when he doesn't feel responsible for the deaths of the mother, 36, and her 12-year-old daughter.
"The real image of Falun Gong is a group that kills and harms life, (exiled sect guru) Li Hongzhi is the biggest evil monster," Wang said.
Wang's face is heavily scarred from burns caused in the incident and he doesn't have the full use of his hands.
He said that without the government crackdown on the group, more Falun Gong followers would have performed similar acts.
Three other people were convicted for organising the self-immolation and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years to life imprisonment.
Former school teacher Hao Huijun and her 20-year-old daughter Chen Guo were still in hospital being treated for burns.
"Falun Gong, don't even raise that name," Hao told the cameras.
She expressed remorse over her daughter's condition.
Chen would have been a third year music student at the Central Academy of Music in Beijing this year if she had not participated in the mass suicide attempt. Several of her fingers have been amputated and she will not play music again, the report said.
Tomorrow's leading People's Daily will carry an editorial denunciating the dangers of evil cults, as Falun Gong has been called, and praising the government's efforts to eradicate the group.
The Chinese government banned the movement in July 1999, calling it the biggest threat to one party communist rule since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of Falun Gong followers have been sentenced to jail terms and tens of thousands sent to labour camps. The movement says as many as 300 followers have died from brutality in police detention.
Falun Gong combines Buddhist-based philosophy and slow-motion meditation exercises. It teaches the cultivation of a wheel of energy inside the belly of each participant which can bring health and spiritual well-being.
Practitioners of a spiritual movement banned in China are disputing Gov. Mike Leavitt's assertions that he never agreed to sign a proclamation declaring Jan. 8, 2002, Falun Gong day in the state of Utah.
Falun Gong practitioners said during a press conference at the state Capitol Monday that Leavitt made such inferences and then reneged.
"Later we found out he would like to make a few changes" to the proclamation, said Alicia Zhao, a Falun Gong spokeswoman from San Francisco.
Those revisions took longer than expected and, after a meeting with Leavitt's chief of staff Rick McKeown, Falun Gong members learned the governor wanted to take the "neutral way," which meant not signing the proclamation at all.
In being neutral, the Falun Gong says Leavitt has bent to China's will.
For evidence, they note that the governor's change of heart came about the same time he met with Yafei He, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy, who openly said he would vent China's concerns about Falun Gong to Leavitt.
However, Leavitt maintains he never promised to sign the proclamation and his decision against the idea was coincidental to his meeting with He.
Still, Falun Gong members remain suspicious.
The group has been banned in China since July 1999 - a date which, according to its members, coincided with its membership outpacing the number of registered Chinese in the ruling Communist Party.
Since that time, Falun Gong members say, the government has undertaken a smear campaign against the movement both inside and outside China.
He's comments to Leavitt are part of that campaign, they say.
It isn't the first time a member of the Chinese Embassy or consulate has attempted to sway a U.S. leader about Falun Gong.
Stan Bogosian, the former mayor of Saratoga, Calif., told the Associated Press last year that a few days after he signed a proclamation declaring a week in honor of Falun Gong, two officials from the Chinese consulate urged him to rescind it.
When he refused, Bogosian said the Chinese asked him to remain "neutral" on the issue.
Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson, who declared Jan. 22-28, 2001, Falun Gong week, also met with He.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, was a topic, and He expressed Olympic safety concerns, which Anderson forwarded to the police department.
It was Anderson's administration that granted the Falun Gong permission to protest during the Winter Games.
Members, who insist they are a peaceful group, say they will use that time to conduct their yoga-like spiritual movements and distribute literature about Chinese persecution.
They say thousands have died from torture at the government's hands.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, issues regular reports that Falun Gong members have committed mass public suicides or have starved themselves to death while in prison.
Proof, the government says, that the members are part of a doomsday cult.
A Japanese Falun Gong follower has said that he was deported from China after protesting Beijing's ban on the group.
Hiroyoshi Sawa, a 27-year-old company employee from Kyoto, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday that he was forced to return home Wednesday via Shanghai after being detained and assaulted by Chinese security authorities.
Sawa said he unfurled a banner that read "Falun Gong's teachings are good" and shouted the same slogan in Chinese in Tiananmen Square on Tuesday.
Security authorities took him away for questioning and seized his books on Falun Gong, Sawa said.
He said that he was questioned about his relationship with Chinese Falun Gong followers and that he was detained overnight.
Sawa said he will continue his campaign to end persecution of the religious group's followers.
According to sources close to the group, there are several thousand Falun Gong followers in Japan. Sawa's case marks the fourth time Japanese have been deported from China for staging a protest in Tiananmen Square.
BEIJING (AP) - Reports that Falun Gong followers were being tortured in Chinese jails prompted Teng Chunyan to risk all and come home from New York City. Now she too is in prison but insists she cherishes every moment there.
In a prison interview, her first with a Western news organization since her arrest in May 2000, Teng said she has undergone a radical ``mental transformation.'' No longer a crusader, she says Falun Gong is a cult that brainwashed her.
``I really treasure each day of my time here,'' said Teng, dressed in a blue prison uniform. ``I think it's all the start of a new life. It's given me many opportunities to learn things that I didn't know before.'' Her friends are shocked. They suspect that 38-year-old Teng, who lived in the New York City borough of Queens and ran a successful acupuncture clinic on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, has been abused and forced to recant.
What else, they ask, could prompt such a change of heart from a woman who would rise before dawn to practice Falun Gong's slow-motion exercises daily in parks? ``I don't understand how a person could change totally,'' said Janet Xiong, a New York City government employee who practiced with Teng. ``I think she must be brainwashed.''
The interview with Teng was given in response to an Associated Press request. Questions had to be submitted in advance. Prison officials sat in on the meeting, which also was monitored by foreign affairs and security officials.
Such constraints make it difficult to judge how freely Teng was speaking.
But the interview gave insights into how China is dealing with a movement it has labeled a dangerous cult, and its efforts to discredit its leadership and drive away followers.
The prison where Teng shares a third-floor room with five other former Falun Gong followers opened in December 2000 and holds 102 women. Officials say most were convicted of such economic crimes as theft and corruption.
Its high walls are topped by barbed wire. Security cameras and armed guards keep watch. Inmates are up at 6 a.m. and in bed by 9:30 p.m.
Teng, a Chinese citizen who moved to the United States in 1990 and had permanent U.S. residency, returned to China early in 2000 on a self-appointed mission to expose Beijing's efforts to crush Falun Gong.
Chinese leaders banned the group in July, 1999, fearful that its multimillion-member following and organizational prowess threatened communist rule.
Thousands were confined to prisons or labor camps. Human rights groups and Falun Gong supporters abroad said dozens were dead from torture and abuse.
Police detained and punched, kicked and spat on followers who protested on Tiananmen Square, the huge plaza in the center of Beijing.
Operating under the pseudonym Hannah Li, Teng tipped off foreign reporters about protests and helped them meet practitioners. Some had been detained in a mental hospital. One man said he was fed psychiatric drugs.
``She was very proud of what she did. She felt she did something noble,'' Xiong said in a telephone interview. ``I was impressed by her courage.'' After a brief visit to New York, Teng returned to China in May 2000.
This time, authorities were waiting. China's official Xinhua News Agency said she was detained while entering from Hong Kong.
Friends say they had tried to discourage Teng from her second trip.
``I didn't have a good feeling about it,'' said Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York. ``She just said, `I have to go there.' She was being like Florence Nightingale, the savior of people.'' A Beijing court tried Teng at a closed hearing on Nov. 23 last year. The U.S. State Department called it ``deeply disturbing.'' Seven weeks later came the sentence: three years in prison for ``spying and leaking state secrets.''
Teng said she resisted at first and only began to question her actions after 13 months in detention.
She was moved last June from a holding center to the First Division of the Beijing Women's Prison, a new section of a large penal complex in Beijing's southwestern suburbs.
``Only then did I really start my mental transformation,'' Teng said.
``In the detention center I met ordinary people. I saw their reaction to us and what I regard as the fairly extreme actions of some detained Falun Gong practitioners - such as wanting to hunger strike or commit suicide.
``When I stopped standing on the side of Falun Gong and looked back on Falun Gong's actions as an ordinary person I saw that politically it really had played a role of resisting the government.
``I felt very, very sad when I realized that I really did bring harm to the country, to society and to my family.''
Teng was interviewed in a prison reception room. She answered mostly in Chinese, switching occasionally into English.
She spoke coherently and looked relaxed, although physically she had changed.
As the pseudonymous Hannah Li, Teng wore her hair long and was elegantly dressed and made up. Now her hair was cut to collar length and looked greasy or gelled. She had rouged cheeks, lipstick, thinly plucked eyebrows and looked plumper, even a little puffy, around the face.
The New York chic that made Hannah Li stand out in Beijing was gone.
Her Falun Gong friends wonder what happened in the 18 months between her arrest and the November day when Chinese state media announced that she had shaken off a ``spiritual shackle'' and renounced Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, quoting unnamed witnesses who it said were detained with Teng, said she was abused.
``She was interrogated for hours on end on more than 50 occasions. She was forced to stand and squat in excruciating postures for days and nights at a time. And she was even fined 30,000 yuan ($3,600) as a `service charge' for her own captivity,'' said a written statement issued by Falun Gong's office in New York.
Falun Gong says practitioners are routinely tortured. By the end of 2001, it says, 334 had been killed, 500 imprisoned, more than 1,000 sent to mental hospitals and 20,000 detained in labor camps.
``They strip them of their clothes and hang them upside down. Crazy things to induce pain, almost to the point of death - electric shocks, inside their private parts for the women; for the men in their mouths or their heads,'' Rachlin said.
The government says Falun Gong practitioners have committed suicide or died of ill health in custody. But it denies that followers are targeted for abuse. The government says it only imprisons hard-core organizers.
Teng said she hasn't been tortured or seen it happen to others. She likened the prison to a school.
``The living conditions are very, very good,'' she said. ``We eat really well, like in a hotel and a little better than at home.'' ``I absolutely don't feel as if I have been brainwashed here,'' Teng said.
``I think I was brainwashed by Falun Gong. Through transformation I really have escaped from that previous brainwashed state and seen the truth.'' The U.S. Embassy in Beijing says its diplomats have not been allowed to visit Teng. The embassy said it requested access on behalf of her American husband. But because she is not a U.S. citizen she is not covered by a treaty letting diplomats see detained Americans.
Born the youngest of three children in Harbin in China's northeast, Teng went to the United States in 1990, according to her mother, Qiu Yunfang.
She married a Russian Jewish immigrant in 1998, Qiu said. They have no children. Qiu said her daughter had begun the process of applying for U.S.
citizenship before she was arrested.
Xiong first met Teng in the summer of 1998 when she showed up for Falun Gong lessons in the Queens Botanical Garden.
By early 1999, Teng was coming almost daily for two-hour sessions starting at 5:30 a.m. and was introducing acupuncture patients to Falun Gong, Xiong said.
Teng said she turned to Falun Gong for help with health and personal problems, to attain its stated aims of ``truth, compassion and forbearance,'' and ``to bring honor to my family, to my parents.'' ``But the result was totally opposite,'' she said.
Now she talks about her ``transformation'' with the same fervor she once displayed for Falun Gong.
``We call this life after death. It's a sad but exciting process,'' she said.
She is due for release in May 2003.
Asked whether she was counting the days until then, she replied in English: ``It will be a surprise to people - I really don't. I cherish every single day here.''
TOKYO, January 4 (Kyodo) - A Japanese Falun Gong follower said Friday he was deported from China after staging a protest Tuesday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square against the Chinese government's ban on the group.
Hiroyoshi Sawa, a 27-year-old company worker from Kyoto, said at a press conference in Tokyo that he was forced to return home Wednesday via Shanghai after being detained and assaulted by Chinese security authorities.
Sawa said he unfurled a banner saying, ''Falun Gong's teachings are good,'' and shouted the same slogan in Chinese at the square.
Security authorities then took him away for questioning and seized the books on Falun Gong he was carrying, Sawa said, adding he was questioned about his relationship with Chinese Falun Gong followers and detained overnight.
Sawa said he will continue his campaign to end persecution of the religious group's followers.
According to sources close to the group, there are several thousand Falun Gong followers in Japan. Sawa's case marks the fourth time Japanese were deported from China for staging a protest at Tiananmen Square, they said.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions that preaches good health and morality can be achieved through meditation and special exercises.
The group's open conflict with the Chinese government began in April 1999, when thousands of adherents peacefully surrounded Zhongnanhai, the home of China's ruling elite, in central Beijing.
Beijing has labeled Falun Gong an ''evil cult'' that destroys the lives of its followers, and outlawed it.
OTTAWA - A Chinese student attending school in Ottawa says he was dragged, kicked and beaten inside the Chinese embassy after taking a picture of an anti-Falun Gong exhibit during an open house.
Xueliang (Leon) Wang, 25, a business administration student at the University of Ottawa, says embassy officials implied he had no recourse because he was on Chinese territory.
"They were vicious and frightening," Wang said yesterday. "I never expected anything like this in Canada."
Local police were investigating the Dec. 28 incident. Foreign Affairs officials said they were waiting for a police report before deciding whether any action could or should be taken.
Without addressing specific charges, the embassy said Wang and other Falun Gong practitioners repeatedly tried to force their way into the building and ultimately "sneaked in . . . and disrupted its normal functioning."
"Trying to mislead the public and the media by cooking up sensational stories is a trick often played by the Falun Gong," said a statement.
The embassy said the intent of the exhibition was to expose the "cult nature" of the Falun Gong and that local practitioners did everything they could to stop the exhibit, including "dozens of threatening calls and letters."
Falun Gong is a mix of traditional Chinese philosophies and teachings of its founder, Li Hongzhi, which the Chinese government says drives people insane.
During an interview, Wang produced an e-mail invitation to "a movie party" at 4 p.m. on Dec. 28 and a cockeyed photograph he took there. It shows a display board declaring Falun Gong "a scourge."
Wang says he was approached by two embassy staff after taking the photo of part of an exhibition of 90 posters he said were "defaming" Falun Gong.
The staff was shouting "he's taking pictures," said Wang.
He said he was dragged out of the hall to the main entrance, where he said he was surrounded by three or four embassy staff demanding he turn over his film. He refused.
"Do you know where you are?" he quoted them as saying. "This is Chinese territory."
Wang said witnesses saw him dragged downstairs and into a room. Behind a closed door, he said officials beat him while another stood guard.
"One of them held my arm and another hit my head very heavily," he said. "I felt very, very dizzy. My head was spinning. But I was still conscious." He said he was thrown and knocked down several times, his arms were twisted and his legs kicked.
He said he was repeatedly threatened and reminded he was on Chinese territory.
"Either you give us the film or we will call the RCMP," he said he was told.
"I said I wanted to see the RCMP." Wang said he was released after an official confirmed he had been invited to the party.
Wang said he was detained and beaten twice as a Falun Gong practitioner in China in 1999 - once for eight days and once for more than 20 days.
Falun Gong drew members in the late 1990s with a combination of slow-motion exercises and beliefs.
Though the movement is practised in more than 50 countries, China rejects claims it promotes health. It says it has caused more than 1,600 deaths.
Falun Gong practitioners say more than 300 have died from torture and abuse since China launched a crackdown on the movement in July, 1999.
The chief of banned "Falun Gong" spiritual group in China, Erping Giang, has surfaced in New Delhi with an international delegation to set up its Indian chapter and to lobby with the Indian leadership so that it could convince China that this group was a non-governmental organisation with no political mission.
It is not yet clear how Erping Giang came to New Delhi. He is staying in the Hyatt Regency hotel here along with his close associates from Taiwan, Norway and Singapore.
The delegation plans to meet Indian political, spiritual and non-governmental leaders, sources close to him said, adding that he may try to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee or Home Minister L K Advani.
Falun Gong is a yogic movement in China promoting meditation and concentration techniques to spiritually starved people of that country.
It was founded by a teacher Li Hong Hie in 1992.
The ruling Communist Party of China feels threatened with this group whose membership rose to 10 crore as against five crore of the party. China, which treats this group as fundamentalist in nature, launched a crackdown on it in 1996 and banned it in 1998.
In the past three years one lakh supporters of Falun Gong were jailed, about 10,000 were tortured and 332 people died in police custody. China has imposed 18 years imprisonment for those who become its members.
Falun Gong has its members all over the world.
Its founder Li Hong Hie had to take shelter in New York.
Erping Giang has a mission -to create a public opinion in India to convey that Falun Gong was purely a spiritual, non-governmental organisation with international character but no political intentions and that China should consider lifting the ban on this group.
Sources close to Erping Giang say that Falun Gong was a more powerful, bigger and moral movement than that of the Dalai Lama.
Like Karmapa, Erping Giang, who is the chief of International committee of Falun Gong, would not seek political asylum in India, the sources said.
The question being debated in political circles is that China may feel irked over the activities of Erping Giang in a democratic country like India.
Beijing has not taken kindly to the activities of Dalai Lama, who is chief of the Tibetan government in exile, though New Delhi recognises Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Homeless women from Philadelphia, anti-rodeo activists, abortion opponents, and followers of a spiritual sect banned in China will be part of the Olympic scene.
They're not necessarily sports fans. They want the world to hear about their causes. Police say they will let them demonstrate if they obey the law.
But the potential for trouble looms. Protesters disrupted the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999; they've created havoc at other international meetings in Quebec and Genoa, Italy.
But these are the Olympics.
Sports, international goodwill, who's going to argue with that? The Kensington Welfare Rights Union, for one.
The group represents the poor and homeless in one of Philadelphia's most blighted neighborhoods.
``We want to make sure we call attention to us at the same time they're spending billions of dollars on ... the Olympics in Utah,'' said Cheri Honkala, director of the Kensington group.
They're arranging a caravan to Salt Lake City for the games, which begin Feb. 8. The Kensington group plans an ``unpermitted march to the front door of the stadium,'' for the opening ceremonies, Honkala said.
For housing, Honkala expects to pitch a circus tent somewhere.
Police say they will try to accommodate everyone who wants to peacefully protest.
``We're going to try our level best to take care of people's needs,'' said Scott Folsom, assistant police chief. ``If they choose not to obey the law, we're going to respond.'' He won't discuss police tactics, but training for officers has been extensive.
The plan to accommodate protesters involves a permit application for a half-dozen designated zones near Olympic venues.
The Kensington groups says it's not going to bother with permits.
A group of abortion opponents has filed suit in federal court, saying the protest zones unfairly limit free speech.
Another group, Falun Dafa, has dutifully filled out its applications and been given a permit for each day of the games. The group, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual movement outlawed by the Chinese government.
Groups of up to 500 Falun Dafa followers will gather to meditate and protest Chinese policy.
Some of the most vocal protest groups so far have been animal rights activists.
Their target is the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo, a companion event to the games where 40 American and 40 Canadian riders will compete. Supporters promote the event as a celebration of Western culture.
Animal rights groups say the rodeo is cruel to livestock and want the event canceled. They met Thursday with Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney, but SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said the rodeo won't be canceled.
The Utah Animal Rights Coalition applied for protest permits outside the designated zones, and they were denied.
So far, all applications for demonstration permits outside the protest zones have been denied, Janelle Eurick, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
Eurick says the protest zones are an acceptable way to control crowds near the congested Olympic venues. Elsewhere in the city, however, people should be allowed to gather as usual. She's helping the group appeal its permit denial. A hearing with city officials is scheduled for Friday.
A university student visiting the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa alleges that he was assaulted by embassy staff.
Leon Wang took pictures of a display of posters that depicted the persecution of Falun Gong. Wang, who practices Falun Gong says he was invited to the embassy to watch two movies on December 28th.
When he did not hand over his film, he was assaulted by the staff. His camera was not confiscated.
BEIJING - A member of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement detained in western China has died after a hunger strike, a hospital administrator said Wednesday.
Wan Guifu, 57, died Dec. 18 at the hospital of the Dashaping labor camp in the city of Lanzhou, said the administrator, contacted by telephone. He gave only his surname, Zhang.
The death added to a mounting loss of life among Falun Gong members since the group was outlawed in July, 1999 as a threat to communist rule.
The government and Falun Gong leaders blame each other for the deaths.
Falun Gong says 335 detained members had died of abuse by the end of December. The government denies mistreating detainees, and says followers have died of ill health or committed suicide.
Wan was detained in March for distributing Falun Gong materials in Lanzhou, Falun Gong supporters abroad said in a written statement. It said the retired autoworker stopped eating Oct. 15 to protest his confinement and was hospitalized in mid-December.
Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, one of China's poorest areas, is about 650 miles southwest of Beijing.
CHINA announced new rules for the publishing sector on Monday, as the ruling Communist Party maintains a tight grip on the mass media in the world's most populous country.
The rules, which go into effect on Feb 1, ban published material deemed harmful to social stability and set out guidelines for importing publications including books, magazines and CDs, the Xinhua news agency said.
The Communist Party is keen to ensure social stability in 2002, a year made uncertain by a leadership shuffle and the threat of mass unemployment from wrenching economic reform, analysts say.
The rules offer Beijing an added weapon to control print media and publishers, although those sectors were already heavily regulated in China, they say.
The rules ban the promotion of cults and what is deemed superstitious material, Xinhua said.
That clause could allow Beijing to come down hard on publishers of material promoting the Falungong spiritual movement, which Beijing outlawed as an 'evil cult' in 1999.
China guarantees religious freedom in its constitution but allows worship only through state-controlled religious bodies and has outlawed 17 underground church organisations.
The rules also ban printed material that 'disturbs social order' or 'destroys social stability', Xinhua said, which typically refers to politically sensitive topics, such as human rights or independence for Tibet and Taiwan.
Newspapers, periodicals, digital publications such as CDs, and books including textbooks would be affected by the rules, it said. The rules said companies seeking to import foreign publications must meet several conditions, including a minimum registered capital and a fixed place of business, Xinhua said.
They threaten fines for publications renting out their publishing licence to other publications of five to 10 times the amount of money made in the illegal transactions, it said.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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