BEIJING - Fifteen U.S.-based scientists with ties to Beijing's famed Tsinghua University have petitioned President Bush, due to speak there on Friday, on behalf of jailed members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.
The group called China's most prestigious institution of scientific learning a ``bastion of intolerance, injustice and persecution'' for collaborating in a government crackdown on campus, the New York-based Falun Dafa Information Center said.
China has imprisoned, detained or sent to labor camps more than 300 Tsinghua students and faculty, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
``One by one practitioners have disappeared there, some to gulags, some to jails,'' Falun Dafa quoted University of Pennsylvania professor and Tsinghua alumnus Shiyu Zhou as saying in the letter addressed to Bush.
China's heir apparent Hu Jintao, a Tsinghua alumnus, was expected to meet Bush before his speech and introduce him.
The scientists' letter raised the cases of six students, arrested for posting articles on Falun Gong on the Internet, whose sentencing China postponed ahead of Bush's visit.
Overland Park resident David Snape spoke at a press conference Sunday about his arrest near China's Tianamen Square last Thursday.
David Snape didn't stop the advance of a tank column a la the solitary young man who won the world's admiration during the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy students in China's Tiananmen Square.
In fact, the 33-year-old Overland Park man was apprehended just shy of entering the square, where he had expected to unfurl a banner - and be beaten - last Thursday as part of a protest against China's persecution of Falun Gong followers there.
Snape wasn't beaten, as were some of the Western Falun Gong protesters who did manage to make it into the square. Nevertheless, Snape's fellow Falun Gong practioners in the Kansas City area believe he acted with extreme courage.
"When a practitioner decides to go over (and protest), we're very supportive, but we hold our breath until we hear they're on an airplane coming home," Cat Rooney of Lawrence said following a press conference Sunday at Mill Creek Park in Kansas City, Mo.
Dozens of practioners meet each weekend at that Country Club Plaza park to practice the Tai Chi-like exercises prescribed by the spiritual practice known as Falun Gong. But on Sunday, the focus was on Snape and 25-year-old Sara Effner of Columbia, Mo., who talked about their 20 hours in detention and their reasons for joining nearly 70 other Western Falun Gong supporters in Beijing.
"In November 2001, the first group of Western practitioners went to protest," said Snape, one of a growing number of non-Oriental Falun Gong practioners. "When I saw that happen, I knew in my heart I also should have been there to stand up and tell the world what was happening to the practitioners in China."
At least 10,000 Chinese Falun Gong practitioners continue to languish in Chinese labor camps and detention centers, according to Amnesty International, and at least 1,600 have died in custody since the Chinese government outlawed the practice three years ago.
To protest the torture, rape, drugging and imprisonment of the Chinese practitioners, about 40 Westerners dashed into Tiananmen Square at about 2 p.m. Beijing time Thursday and unfurled banners proclaiming the goodness of "Falun Dafa," which is another name for Falun Gong, and bearing the three universal principles - "truthfulness, compassion and forbearance" - at the heart of the practice. Those protestors were quickly tackled by Chinese police, dragged to nearby vans and hauled into custody.
Another 15 supporters were arrested in their hotel rooms on the night before the protests, which had become known to police despite being secretly planned via encrypted e-mails, Snape said. The remainder of the protesters, like Snape and Effner, were arrested en route to Tiananmen Square.
The quick release and deportation of the Western detainees was attributed to intervention by Congressmen, including U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kansas, and President George Bush's pending visit to Beijing. But Snape said there had been no assurances prior to the protest that the practitioners would return home safely.
"I carefully considered all possibilities before doing this," he said. "I took several months to come to the final decision, and I was very conscious that I could possibly be killed or worse. Still, I made a decision to put my self-interests aside and go there to do something to help the people suffering in China."
Prior to 1999, Snape said, he knew nothing about Falun Gong. But on his last day with the Cerner Corp. in North Kansas City that year, a co-worker gave him a flier about it.
"I thought, 'Gee, this sounds a lot like Buddhism,'" said Snape, who now works for Sprint. "I wasn't real interested in that, but I took the flier home for some reason and put it on my refrigerator, and after five or six months I found it again."
At that point, Snape decided to check out Falun Gong on the Internet. That led him to two books by Li Hongzhi, who introduced the ancient concepts of Falun Gong to the Chinese masses in 1992. And those books, "Zhuan Falun" and "Falun Gong," changed Snape's life, he said.
"I began to recognize that Falun Dafa spelled out answers to questions I'd had ever since I was a child," he said. One of those lingering questions, he said, had been a big one: What's the meaning of life? "My understanding now is that the purpose of being a human being is to return to who you originally were," he said. "It's like maybe in a higher realm, so to speak, you've done some things wrong, and your punishment is to come here and be a human being. But that's just my understanding; people should read the books to get their own understanding."
While Falun Gong does not call for worshipping a God, Snape added, he personally believes in a creator and that "the goal is to ascend to heaven, just like in Christianity or Buddhism."
Some people practice Falun Gong while maintaining previous religious beliefs, Snape said. But he gave up Christianity after he became a Falun Gong practitioner.
Because Falun Gong is a peaceful, nonpolitical practice, aimed solely at cultivating mind and body, Snape finds it hard to understand why Chinese President Jiang Zemin is so threatened by it.
But Ron Gluckman, an American journalist who has visited China many times, said the country's past helps explain why present leaders are reluctant to allow a spiritual movement to sweep the masses.
"One only has to go back to the Taiping Rebellion in the 19th century, when an aspiring Chinese civil servant decided, following a series of visions, that he was the brother of Jesus," Gluckman said. "Gathering adherents, he soon mustered an army that took Nanjing and marched on Shanghai. An astonishing 20 million Chinese were estimated to have died in that civil war.
"Many can easily draw parallels to Falun Gong, which was founded by Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk who now lives in New York. The group claims 70 to 100 million adherents worldwide."
In 1992, when the practice was introduced, Chinese officials supported it, Snape said, "because they recognized people were becoming healthier and they were saving health-care dollars."
But by 1999, he said, the government was estimating that the number of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners had exceeded the 60 million members of China's communist party.
Since Falun Gong was declared illegal in July of that year, Snape said, the state-controlled media in China have demonized the practice by televising self-immolations in Tiananmen Square, claiming the victims were Falun Gong practitioners, and otherwise portraying the practice as a murderous and suicide-bent doomsday cult.
Actually, the only horrors associated with Falun Gong are those being perpetrated on Zemin's orders, Snape said, and exposing that fact to the Chinese masses was one of the aims of last week's protest.
With a banner hidden in one of his socks, Snape made it through a police checkpoint en route to fulfilling that goal in Tiananmen Square Thursday. He was chased down in an underground passage near the square after police frisked his traveling companion, Effner, and found a concealed surveillance camera.
While in captivity, however, Snape and Effner were able to boost awareness among police officers and translators. When one translator was told of how a Chinese practitioner and her 8 month old son were tortured to death in November 2000, Snape said, "she became very upset and left; they had to bring in somebody else."
During the 20 hours they were detained, Snape added, the Westerners were denied water, contact with the outside world and knowledge of whether or not they might share some of their Chinese counterparts' grim fates.
"If I'm able to go through that," Snape said, "then I hope other people in the community can at least write a letter to their congressmen or senators or stand up in some other way to tell Jiang Zemin that this evil persecution should end."
WASHINGTON - Some two dozen Americans expelled from China after staging a protest against the crackdown on the Falun Gong religious sect are complaining to Congress and the State Department.
The Americans, and about a dozen supporters, said the protesters had been mistreated during their detention, an accusation U.S. diplomats could not verify because they were not permitted to see the Americans while they were held in China.
With Congress in recess Tuesday, the protesters met with aides to the lawmakers. Similarly, at the State Department, they talked to low-level officials.
As a result of their account, the State Department will ask the Chinese government about the accusations of abuse, a department official said.
President Bush is due in Beijing on Thursday. He is expected to make a point of human rights in his talks with Chinese officials, but the topic, a familiar one, is unlikely to dominate his agenda.
In the meantime, 94 House members sent Bush a letter last weekend asking him to express concern over what the Falun Gong calls a campaign of terror.
In a separate letter, five U.S. senators expressed concern about restrictions on the sect and treatment of its adherents.
The Falun Gong information center says it has verified 358 deaths since persecution of the sect began three years ago.
Last Thursday's protest in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square resulted in the expulsion of 42 foreign demonstrators - 33 Americans, four Britons and five Germans. All were put on planes back to their countries Friday.
The protest was the largest involving foreigners. Possibly to avert a diplomatic backlash during Bush's visit, Chinese authorities took the unusual step of issuing a statement saying they had treated the detainees humanely.
Falun Gong was outlawed in July 1999 as a threat to social order and communist rule.
BEIJING - China has postponed sentencing six students arrested for posting articles on the Internet about the banned Falun Gong movement, days before President Bush is due in Beijing, a rights group said Tuesday.
A district court in the southern city of Zhuhai charged the students from Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University last September with "using evil cult to undermine the enforcement of law," the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison, but the sentencing, originally set for soon after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays ended on February 18, was postponed, probably until March, it said.
Bush is due in Beijing Thursday for talks with his counterpart Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji and is scheduled to deliver a speech at Tsinghua Friday which will be broadcast live on national television.
The United States has long criticized China's human rights record and expressed concern about the government's suppression of Falun Gong.
Center spokesman Frank Lu said in the statement the delay was probably because of Bush's visit.
Court officials in Zhuhai were not immediately available for comment.
The students were arrested in November 2000 in Zhuhai for posting articles protesting against the government's crackdown on Falun Gong, the Center said.
It said they were among more than 300 Tsinghua students and faculty members who had been detained, put into labor camps or handed prison terms for Falun Gong related activities since the Communist Party launched its high-profile crackdown on the group three years ago.
In December, China jailed six other academics for downloading material on Falun Gong and distributing it over the Internet.
The Information Center said Beijing's Number One Intermediate Court sentenced the six, including four graduate students from Tsinghua, to jail terms of three to 12 years.
China has cracked down on Falun Gong, a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese physical exercises, since branding it an "evil cult" and banning it in 1999.
The banned group's U.S.-based information center says more than 1,600 followers have died as a result of abuse in police custody or detention centers.
Chinese authorities have acknowledged several deaths of Falun Gong members in custody, but say most resulted from suicide or illness. They blame the group for the deaths of at least 1,800 people through suicide or the refusal to take medical treatment.
The long "hand of the Chinese government" is behind the unprecedented decision to ban followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement from the annual Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown, practitioners said Monday.
One day after being turned away from the Wentworth Avenue parade they've been part of for two straight years, Falun Gong followers threatened a lawsuit and demanded a public apology from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the parade's organizer.
Without evidence of a political conspiracy, University of Chicago administrator Stephen Gregory said it cannot be a coincidence that practitioners of a movement branded a "dangerous cult" by the Chinese government would be turned away from Chinese New Year parades in Chicago and New York.
"The question is why would the Benevolent Association violate U.S. law and Illinois law and create this huge problem for themselves unless there was a strong incentive--some means of persuasion used to ask them to do that," said Gregory, a Falun Gong practitioner.
"The hand of the Chinese government is behind this. I suspect the Chinese consulate asked the association to do this. The Chinese government wants to convince the people of China, as well as the immigrant population here, that Falun Gong is a bad thing. They use many different methods to do this. Their propaganda is not subtle." Chinese Consul General Ruixing Wei could not be reached for comment. Stephen Quan, president of the Chinese association, did not return phone calls.
Billy Moy, executive director of the Chinese Community Center, said the center's board of directors voted 70-2 at their last meeting to ban Falun Gong.
"They just said, 'We do not wish to have them participate, period.' That's it. No reason," Moy said.
The parade controversy surrounds a group that was banned by the Chinese government in July 1999 because of the threat that its multimillion-member following and organizational prowess pose to Communist rule.
On Sunday, Falun Gong practitioners arrived in Chinatown hoping to participate, just as they have without incident for the last two years.
Instead, organizers and police told them the group had been banned and threatened to have practitioners arrested if they stepped onto the street or stood on the sidewalk carrying banners. When Quan told them his hands were tied, they walked to Chinatown Square, put up their banners and did their exercises there.
"I am upset, angry, shocked that this could happen in Chicago in this land of freedom," said Warren Tai, a director of the Mid-USA Falun Dafa Association.
Gregory added, "It feels horrible. Here in the U.S., we take for granted that, if one of us wants to take part in a parade, we sign up and take part.
Here in Chicago on Wentworth Avenue, we were suddenly told we didn't have that right. It's so out of place with what we, as Americans, take for granted."
Falun Gong says more than 300 of its followers have died of torture and abuse while in custody in China. Thousands more have been sent to prisons and labor camps, even though the sect maintains that its philosophies and practices are aimed at promoting health and good citizenship.
On Monday, Tai charged that the "persecution" has spread to Chicago. Last summer, a Falun Gong practitioner here was beaten up at one of the group's regular Saturday demonstrations in front of the Chinese consulate by three unidentified Chinese men who drove up in a Mercedes, Tai said. On Dec. 22, another follower had his car set on fire in Chinatown, apparently because Falun Gong materials were inside, he said.
Two Boston-area practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in China, say they were detained for 30 hours and physically abused by police after trying to participate in a protest for religious freedom in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last week.
Westerners have been detained in similar religious protests before, but the detainment typically lasts a few hours and rarely involves allegations of abuse, said Merle Goldman, a Boston University professor of Chinese history and also a faculty researcher at Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research. President Bush is scheduled to visit China this week and is expected to discuss China's entry into the World Trade Organization and human rights issues with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
''I think he's certainly going to speak out against the repression of religious groups,'' Goldman said. ''This will be an issue, and it will be a contentious issue.''
The two who said they were detained and assaulted, Riordan Galluccio, 34, of West Roxbury, and Maria Salzman, 29, of Quincy, practice Falun Gong, one of several Chinese meditative exercises called qigong that incorporate elements of Buddhism and Daoism. Adherents say the system improves health and character. China's government banned Falun Gong as an ''evil cult'' three years ago after 10,000 followers protested outside a leadership compound in Beijing. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York, 366 practioners have since died in police custody, but Goldman said the numbers aren't verifiable.
Galluccio, who discovered Falun Gong three years ago at a workshop, said about 40 practitioners coordinated the latest secret protest by e-mail to highlight the deaths and counter Chinese ''propaganda.'' The secret, however, got out. When Galluccio emerged from a Tiananmen Square subway stop on Thursday afternoon, police were ready, he said. ''They were stopping every single foreigner they found and searched their bags with metal detectors,'' he said.
Galluccio was carrying Falun Gong pamphlets in his pocket, but he and three other practitioners passed through a police checkpoint. When officers detained the last man in the group, Galluccio bounded into the square, shouted Falun Gong slogans, and then lay limp, he said, as police punched, kicked, choked, and dragged him back into the subway tunnel. Salzman had been taken into custody three hours earlier when police found her concealed Falun Gong banner, she said.
Galluccio and Salzman said they were forced into police vans and driven to a nearby police station. During the ride, Salzman said Chinese police officers twisted her arms and pulled her hair to pry loose a cell phone and palm pilot. Both said they weren't allowed to contact Western embassies.
The treatment worsened when police took the protestors to Beijing Airport Garden Hotel, they said. Galluccio said he saw police strike practitioners' chins by grabbing their legs and dragging them from the vans feet-first. All the detainees were separated and interrogated for two to three more hours, Salzman said.
Afterward, Salzman was taken to a common room with about 20 other practitioners. One woman was bleeding from the face and some of the men had ripped clothes, Salzman said. Chinese authorities attempted to pull practitioners away for another round of questioning, but Salzman said the group sat down and linked arms and legs.
''They wanted to talk to the people who were really beaten,'' she said. ''We decided not to get split up again.'' After a fitful night of sleep, Salzman and Galluccio were forced onto an Air Canada flight to Vancouver, paid for by the Chinese government, they said.
Even after landing, they said Chinese officials on the flight followed them in the airport until Canadian authorities intervened.
Chinese Embassy officials in Washington, D.C., and New York did not return repeated calls yesterday. Goldman suggested the Communist regime is worried that upstart religions like Falun Gong could fill the ''emptiness'' created by the collapse of Marxism-Leninism in China. The group is also adept at using the Internet to organize outside of state control. ''The government sees this as a political challenge,'' she said.
Galluccio said he planned to file a complaint with the State Department today. While US authorities were aware of the detentions, they have not yet received any reports of abuse, said a State Department spokeswoman.
While Galluccio and Salzman's claims could not be verified by the Canadian Office of Foreign Affairs, the Customs and Revenues Agency, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they did receive medical treatment at Vancouver Airport Medical Clinic from Dr.
Adams declined to comment, but he did note bruises on Salzman's body in a medical report. The doctor also reported that Galluccio complained of neck and muscle pain and had a 5-inch abrasion along his belt line. In both reports, the doctor noted the injuries were ''consistent'' with both practitioners' stories.
GREENSBORO -- His mission was a dangerous one. He had to keep it a secret.
He didn't breathe a word of his trip to China to anyone, not his parents or his girlfriend.
Andrew Parker, 22, a senior at UNCG, was hoping to go to China for a peaceful protest against the Chinese government to try to persuade it to lift its ban on the Falun Gong, an ancient practice loosely based on traditional Chinese religions and martial arts.
"Falun Gong teaches truth, compassion and knowledge," he said. "It teaches to always consider others and value virtue." He and 32 other Americans went to Beijing to protest the ban. They assembled at Tiananmen Square on Thursday but were immediately arrested. After being detained overnight, they were put on flights out of China.
Five North Carolinians, including Parker, were put on an airplane that landed in Detroit about midday Friday. Parker flew into Greensboro about 5 p.m. that evening.
In the mid-1990s, Falun Gong drew tens of millions of followers, but China banned it in July 1999, saying it was a threat to communist rule and social order.
Thousands of adherents have been arrested since then. Falun Gong activists claim more than 360 practitioners have died of police torture.
That report of police torture is what prompted Parker to get on a plane and go to China.
"Human life is so precious," he said. "Because we are in a free country, we are responsible to help out people in less fortunate situations." Parker became a Falun Gong practitioner in summer 2000. Despite what some people believe, Parker said, Falun Gong is not a religion.
"It is not a religion because there is no worship, no organization, no exchange of money, no tithing," he said. "It is just individuals who want to practice truth, tolerance and compassion."
About 30 Falun Gong practitioners meet on weekends in the Triangle to practice mind and body exercises, said Jeff Chen, a Falun Gong member from Raleigh. Chen estimates the number of adherents in the region at several times that number.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, the demonstrators tried to open their banners and shout slogans. They were stopped by police as crowds gathered on Tiananmen Square to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
"The minute we Westerners tried to unfurl banners, police were all over us,"
Parker said. "I saw ladies being dragged by their hair."
He was roughed up as well, he said. Parker said a police lieutenant ripped his shirt and left scratches on his neck.
That day, Parker said, there seemed to be 10 times more police officers in Tiananmen Square. He said there were a number of police vans parked near the square, as if the police had been tipped by someone that the protest was going to happen.
"They loaded us into a police bus and took us to the police station, and when we got there, the officers tried to beat us," Parker said.
But a high-ranking official stopped the beatings. Parker said he believes if the protesters had been Chinese, they would have been beaten within an inch of their lives.
"You can tell the people of China are not protected by their government," he said.
About 9 a.m. Friday, Parker said, they were loaded into a police bus - without being told where they were going - and driven to the airport and roughly shoved onto the plane.
Two human-rights activists from Massachusetts claimed Monday that they were detained and beaten while in China last week.
NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that the two were part of a group protesting the Chinese government's crackdown on practitioners of Falun Gong, a type of meditation that is illegal in China.
"The Chinese government was picking up anyone who walked on the street who was Western," Riorodan Galuccio of West Roxbury said. "They were not discriminating against anyone, because they did not know who was a Falun Gong practitioner and who was not." Galuccio and Maria Salzman, of Quincy, Mass., said that they were demonstrating in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Valentine's Day, protesting the government's practice of arresting Falun Gong practitioners. The government has banned Falun Gong because it says it is a cult, but practitioners say it is not a religion, but rather a meditative exercise that will improve health.
"The reason why I was beaten and tortured and detained was for shouting three words: Falun Dafa is good," Galuccio said. "Police on the square and military personnel extended all their available means to try to keep us from letting anyone around there know what we were saying."
Salzman said that they were trying to make other Chinese residents aware of what was going on.
"They don't know what happens," she said. "A lot of people really don't know that practitioners are being persecuted and tortured to death. And when they do, they're truly shocked, because not all Chinese people are bad." Though the two activists were released and returned to the United States, six of the protesters still remain detained in China.
BEIJING - Six Chinese students from the university where President Bush will speak this week are on trial for spreading outlawed religious material, a human rights group said Monday.
The six are charged with spreading material on the Internet about the outlawed Falun Gong religious sect, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said. Their trial began in September in the southern city of Zhuhai, the center said.
The defendants were described as architecture and engineering students at Tsinghua University, an elite school in Beijing where Bush is scheduled to speak on Friday.
The Hong Kong-based center said a ruling in their case had been postponed until after the president's visit.
It said the six were arrested in Zhuhai in November 2000 after posting writings on foreign Web sites criticizing China's crackdown of Falun Gong. The center identified them as Lin Yang, Ma Yan, Li Chunyang, Jiang Yuxia, Li Yanfang and Huang Kui.
No one answered the telephone at Tsinghua or the Zhuhai court on Monday evening.
Religious freedom is expected to be among topics Bush will raise with Chinese leaders during the two-day visit to the Chinese capital that starts Thursday.
Falun Gong is loosely based on traditional martial arts and Buddhism and attracted tens of millions of followers during the rapid social change of the mid-1990s. Beijing banned the sect in July 1999 as a threat to communist rule and social order.
BEIJING - A Japanese Falun Gong follower was detained by Chinese securities authorities after joining a protest and was deported Sunday afternoon, a Japanese Embassy official said.
The follower, identified only as a 30-year-old man from Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, was one of 59 foreign nationals detained after staging a protest against the Chinese government's crackdown on the cult on Thursday at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, according to the official.
Of the 59, 53 were deported on Friday and the Japanese man was among the remaining six.
The man issued a statement during the protest that at least 365 followers have been murdered in the Chinese government's crackdown on Falun Gong, a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions. Its followers have been in open conflict with the Chinese government.
Beijing has labeled Falun Gong an ''evil cult'' that destroys the lives of its followers, and outlawed it.
BEIJING - China has expelled 53 foreigners who staged a protest against the government crackdown on the Falun Gong religious sect, and six more remain in custody, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Saturday.
Diplomats said Friday that 42 foreign demonstrators had been expelled after the protest Thursday in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square - 33 Americans, four Britons and five Germans. They were put on planes back to their countries Friday, the diplomats said.
Police initially said more than 40 foreigners had been detained. The Chinese government did not confirm the total number expelled until Saturday.
The government spokeswoman, who gave only her family name, Qiu, said the protesters came from 12 countries, though she didn't know which.
Six of those detained Thursday remained in police custody because they carried no passports and refused to identify themselves, Qiu said.
Thursday's protest of China's brutal suppression of the Falun Gong movement was the largest so far involving foreigners. Falun Gong was outlawed in July 1999 as a threat to social order and communist rule.
The protest came a week before a visit by President Bush to Beijing. Possibly to avert a diplomatic backlash, Chinese authorities took the unusual step of issuing a statement saying they had treated the detainees humanely.
Some of the detained Americans said they were beaten by Chinese police. About 25 who landed in Detroit on Friday displayed bruises, cuts and scrapes from what they said were police beatings.
The protesters said they were tackled and hit as they tried to unfurl a banner and shout slogans during the demonstration.
New York-based Falun Gong activists said as many as 100 followers had planned to take part. It said 14 Europeans were detained in their hotel rooms before the protest.
The nationalities of the others detained were not immediately clear. Falun Gong supporters in Canada released a statement saying they came from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Taiwan, Vietnam, Norway and Canada.
In contrast to previous protests, many of which took police by surprise, authorities appeared to have been tipped off about Thursday's event.
Checkpoints were set up around Tiananmen Square and foreigners were forced to show identification and open their bags for inspection. Foreign reporters were turned away or kept from the square, so they could not see what was happening.
In November, 35 Western members of Falun Gong were expelled after a mass protest on the square.
Falun Gong, loosely based on traditional Chinese religions and martial arts, drew tens of millions of followers in the mid-1990s as China underwent disorienting social and economic change.
Thousands of members have been detained, and activists abroad say 365 have been killed. Chinese authorities deny abusing anyone but say some members died in hunger strikes or after refusing medical treatment.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says 53 foreign Falun Gong members have been expelled for a protest in Beijing against a government crackdown on the religious sect.
They were detained in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square, says the spokeswoman, who gave only her family name, Qiu.
Police had initially said that more than 40 foreign Falun Gong members were detained in the protest.
The protest was the biggest yet by foreign followers against Beijing's brutal suppression of Falun Gong, which was outlawed in July 1999 as a threat to social order and communist rule.
The Foreign Office says an 18-year-old British schoolboy is among those set to be deported from China. A-level student Alexander Rostron has not been in touch with his family in Leeds, West Yorkshire, since the demonstration in Tiananmen Square.
His mother, Gaydor Kaye, says she is increasingly worried about the Leeds Grammar School pupil as he has not been named among four arrested Britons who were deported on Thursday.
The Foreign Office says the Chinese authorities had confirmed they are holding Mr Rostron, and say he will be deported over the next few days.
Qiu says six of those detained on Thursday remain in police custody because they carried no passports and refuse to identify themselves.
BEIJING - On China's most sacred public space, they unfurled protest banners. In the midst of China's most revered holiday, the Spring Festival, they shouted "Falun Gong is good." Yet unlike in the past, the more than 40 adherents who were quickly detained yesterday were not ethnic or native Chinese. Rather, these Falun Gong protesters - in a clear bid to raise attention to their shattered cause prior to President Bush's first state visit to China next week - carried American, Canadian, German, and other foreign passports.
The absence of locals underscores how completely China has quashed what it calls an "evil cult." But the detention of foreigners may be a prod for the Bush adminstration to challenge Beijing on the issue of religious freedom.
"Chinese security forces have been very effective in rolling up all organized political dissident movements," says Andrew Nathan, a China scholar at Columbia University. "The recent revelation of how coordinated and widespread has been the crackdown on all kind of religious groups in the past couple of years certainly offers an opportunity for an administration that believes in freedom of religion to say something." In the past year, say experts, Beijing has redoubled efforts to crack down on sects and religious groups that exist outside the official Chinese churches. China officially recognizes a "freedom of religious belief" in its Constitution, but such freedoms must be exercised within state-controlled churches.
Chinese officials, wary of bad publicity and seeking to downplay yesterday's Falun Gong protest, dismissed it in the state media service Xinhua, "this turmoil at the center of the Chinese capital was aimed to undermine the happy atmosphere of the Spring Festival." It categorized the 40 as detainees.
Falun Gong activists in New York told The Associated Press that as many as 100 members went to China to protest, and 14 from Europe were arrested in their hotels prior to yesterday's protest.
Last year, the festival was interrupted by five Falun Gong members who set themselves ablaze on the square.
Still, the numbers of foreigners involved in yesterday's protest combined with a series of statements and reports by religious groups this week, do notch up the human and religious rights issue, something Mr. Bush reportedly feels strongly about. And a variety of groups are applying new pressure.
Yesterday a Vatican news service offered the names of 33 priests being kept under house arrest in China. On Monday, a detailed report by a New York religious-rights group unveiled alleged Chinese internal security documents that advise police to "use force" against and "infiltrate" Christian worship places.
With the Bush administration "reformulating its whole foreign policy due to Sept. 11," as former State Department China researcher Carol Lee Hamrin puts it, it is too early to know what kind of emphasis the White House will place on an issue whose Washington articulation is deeply resented by the Chinese.
The White House has praised China for helping US intelligence officials in Afghanistan, and China has been eager to show its cooperative side in the US-led war. Relations between the two countries have been warming markedly after a rocky period last spring when US and Chinese military aircraft collided off China's coast. Yet Bush briefly raised human and minority rights issues during the Shanghai economic summit in China last October: "Especially religious rights, and a warning [to China] not to use antiterrorism against minorities," Ms. Hamrin says, "despite the necessary urgent focus on countering terrorism." On Monday, the New York-based Committee for the Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China issued a 141-page document that contains seven internal security documents urging a comprehensive and systematic crackdown on Falun Gong and underground Christian "home churches" where believers congregate independent of state oversight.
Most of the documents reiterated familiar and long-standing fears in China of "foreign powers" that "conspire" to cause ordinary Chinese to rebel against the state. A variety of "cults" are deemed to be a "crawling danger to domestic security and defense." One transcript of a speech by Sun Jianxin, a vice director of public security in Anhui province, accused the Vatican of "waiting for any opportunity to intervene in the internal affairs of Catholic churches in our country." China views the Falun Gong, whose exiled leader Li Hongzhi lives in New York, as a danger to state security. Falun Gong members, many of them blue collar workers, often say that their morning discipline of exercises, similar to the traditional "qi-gong," fill a spiritual void in their lives.
Two years ago, the sect was declared illegal. At that time, the grass-roots faith could muster hundreds of thousands of silent Chinese protesters at sites around China.
China shut down the Buddhist-inspired Falun Gong movement after a series of surprise protests at the posh Zhongnanhai neighborhood shocked Party officials who were concerned that any group could organize so effectively outside their purview.
Today, most Chinese Falun Gong have been arrested, marginalized, or driven deep underground in a campaign reportedly overseen by President Jiang Zemin himself. Falun Gong arrests have led to some 170 deaths in detention, say rights activists, and to the establishment of a series of special "re-education camps" around the country.
In the past year, Chinese authorities have also begun to train their sights on a plethora of small Christian fundamentalist and evangelical groups, many with ties to the US.
Yesterday, a Hong Kong businessman arrested for bringing bibles to a Pentecostal group called "The Shouters" in China's Fujian province, was released after the White House expressed interest in the case. But two of his colleagues remain in jail.
BEIJING - China Friday denounced the Falun Gong spiritual movement for "stirring up trouble" on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing and expelled 53 Western members detained over a protest a day earlier.
At least 14 others were picked up ahead of the Tiananmen protest, a Falun Gong spokeswoman said in New York. China's state media put the total number of detained Falun Gong members at 59.
It was the latest in a string of demonstrations by foreign members of Falun Gong, who have taken up the cause as protests by Chinese members dwindled amid an intense security and propaganda campaign during the past two years.
"Falun Gong sent foreigners to China to stir up trouble and preach about the evil cult, attempting to undermine the peaceful atmosphere of the Chinese people's joyful Spring Festival and disturb social security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said in a statement.
The square erupted briefly into chaos as hundreds of police chased Western protesters and loaded them into police vans. Chinese tourists, sightseeing during the Lunar New Year holidays, looked on astonished.
A Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York said the 14 others were detained in their hotel rooms in Beijing ahead of the protests, which aimed to "expose the truth about the persecution of Falun Gong in China." China banned the group as an "evil cult" in 1999. Kong said the incident exposed the group's "evil nature."
The official Xinhua news agency said 53 people from 12 countries had been expelled by 6 p.m. (5 a.m. EST) Friday but did not specify the countries from which they came.
Six others who refused to reveal their nationalities or present identification were detained by Beijing police for investigation, Xinhua quoted sources as saying.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman earlier said 33 of the foreigners were American and all of them had been expelled from China.
In Washington, a U.S. official said 29 of the Americans were on their way to Detroit and four were probably going to Canada.
U.S. officials will meet the Americans on arrival to ask them how they were treated in China, the official added.
A list of protesters released by the group in the United States included two from Poland, one from New Zealand, two from Romania, two from Sweden, four from Britain and one from Brazil.
Western embassy officials said seven German and five Canadian nationals had been involved. Four British members of the movement were deported Thursday.
It was the second demonstration this week by Western Falun Gong members in Tiananmen. Security on the square was extraordinarily tight, with police checking foreigners' identity papers and searching bags.
China expelled a Canadian and an American follower of the movement Tuesday, a day after they protested in the square.
In November, China expelled 35 foreign Falun Gong members after they protested on the square and another Canadian woman for a Falun Gong protest there last month.
Chinese protests dwindle
Once-frequent protests by Chinese members of Falun Gong have all but dried up in the past year.
Their cause was dealt a blow on the eve of the Lunar New Year last year, when five alleged Falun Gong members set themselves ablaze in the square. A 12-year-old girl and her mother died of their injuries.
Falun Gong has denied any involvement.
But the government used graphic footage of the incident in a nationwide media campaign to discredit the group. It has also jailed leaders for subversion and sent thousands to "re-education through labor" camps, according to Falun Gong and rights groups.
Falun Gong says more than 1,600 followers have died as a result of abuse in police custody or detention centers.
The government says only a handful have died and those were from suicide or natural causes. It blames Falun Gong for the deaths of at least 1,900 people through suicide or refusing medical treatment.
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
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