BEIJING - Ten months after China declared war on the Buddhist-like sect Falun Gong, followers of the movement continue to risk arrest, incarcerations and beatings for their beliefs.
On Thursday, Beijing police detained dozens of Falun Gong practitioners who sought to mark the birthday of the spiritual movement's exiled leader by demonstrating peacefully and unfurling banners in Tiananmen Square. Witnesses said officers beat and kicked many of the protesters as they bundled them into police vehicles and drove them away.
The protesters, some accompanied by young children, conducted a small celebration of Li Hongzhi's birthday in groups of three to five, witnesses said, and all were immediately set upon by the swarms of uniformed and plainclothes police who now stand constant guard in Tiananmen Square.
The roundup Thursday is a further indication of the difficulty that the Chinese government is having in suppressing this movement. The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, said recently that Falun Gong-related arrests occur everyday.
The crackdown is the biggest political campaign since China crushed student-led protests in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989.
But while the party's failure so far is clear, what it actually means is not. Does it underscore a weakness in the Communist Party and foreshadow some type of political collapse? Or can the party, like it has in the past, continue to muddle through?
What is clear is that Falun Gong's tenacity is a sign that the party has no ideology left to guide China's people.
In addition, the way the party is prosecuting the crackdown, by beating protesters, torturing some, locking up thousands, indicates a lack of flexibility on the part of the leadership, which is faced by new and different challenges in China's fast-changing society every day. The Falun Gong crackdown is perhaps the clearest indication of the growing gap between China's government and its people today. It has been criticized by Chinese people as both out-of-date and a failure.
''Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi are very strange, and I don't quite understand these theories of his,'' said 48-year old Liu Wei on Thursday, from the bicycle repair stand he runs a few blocks east of Tiananmen Square. ''Maybe he does have political goals, but I still can't support Jiang Zemin,'' the Chinese president.
''With all the corruption, and all the poor people in China now, why is he spending so much effort on this?'' Mr. Liu said.
''Falun Gong is the biggest challenge for China's ruling party since the founding of the People's Republic of China,'' said a highly unusual article in a recent issue of China Society, a magazine published by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
''In today's China the most profound challenge is not unemployment, inflation or corruption,'' the article said. ''The most profound challenge is that there is no effective ideology.''
The article criticized the crackdown on Falun Gong as ''stupid'' and called on the Chinese government to loosen its tight reigns on nongovernment organizations and religions.
''Falun Gong satisfies some of its practitioners' needs for belief, social interaction, security and righteousness,'' the article said.
''These needs can only be satisfied, not eliminated. A faithless, isolated, insecure society in which people cannot tell black from white is just the same as hell.''
China's leaders, however, are not heeding those words. Instead, they have launched a campaign against superstition and are calling for renewed study of Marxism, a political philosophy with no following in China today.
The Xinhua news agency said Thursday, ''This again warns us that when Marxism does not occupy a forward position in the realm of ideology, non-Marxist or anti-Marxist thought will inevitably take over.''
Near Tianamnen Square, although the protests subsided by late afternoon, the police presence remained heavy, and the streets leading to the square were full of police vehicles but otherwise closed to car traffic.
Members of the quasi-Buddhist movement have mounted similar protests almost daily since last July, when Chinese authorities pronounced Falun Gong an ''evil cult,'' and banned the teaching or public practice of its distinctive meditation and exercise techniques.
Larger protests have occurred on dates with special significance. On April 25, about 100 adherents were detained in Tiananmen Square as they demonstrated on the first anniversary of the incident that last year brought Falun Gong to prominence: a daylong sit-in at Zhongnanhai, the walled compound in central Beijing where the Chinese government and Communist Party are headquartered.
Mr. Li, the former grain bureau employee from northeastern China who founded Falun Gong in 1992 and now lives in the United States, claims Thursday as his 48th birthday, which, if true, would give him the same birthday as the Buddha.
But Chinese authorities say this is one of many lies Mr. Li has told his followers, and they claim to have documents proving he was born July 7, 1952.
They also insist Falun Gong is a dangerous cult that has caused 1,500 deaths by discouraging followers from seeking medical care, and driven hundreds more to insanity. China last year issued a warrant for Mr. Li's arrest. He has not been heard nor seen for months at his base in New York. The only clue to his whereabouts is a photo posted last July on the group's Website showing him meditating on a mountainside somewhere in the United States. In some cases the crackdown has been conducted with deadly brutality. According to a New York-based Falun Gong spokesperson, Gail Rachlin, at least 35, 000 followers have been arrested since the ban, and 5,000 have been sent to labor camps without trial. In addition, the group says, at least 15 practitioners have died in police custody as a result of abuse and torture.
BEIJING: A prominent U.S. ''televangelist'' denounced the Chinese spiritual group Falun Gong on Friday, calling it a ''deadly and dangerous Jim Jones-like type of cult.'' Speaking at a Beijing press conference, Paul Crouch, founder and president of the California-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), also announced that within a week, his religious television service had won permission to begin broadcasting in China. Crouch had been invited to China by Beijing's ambassador to the United States to evaluate religious freedom in the world's most populous country. Crouch said he found reports of religious oppression to be ''distorted and unbalanced.'' ''I have seen that Christians can openly practice and profess their faith in China. Christians can also meet at their homes in Bible study in groups. This would never have happened a number of years ago,'' he said in a prepared statement. He also approved of Beijing's hard-line stance against the banned Falun Gong. ''The government of China's reaction to dealing with the subversive Falun Gong Cult has been inaccurately portrayed as the government exercising religious oppression instead of the truth that the government is only attempting to protect its citizens from this deadly and dangerous Jim Jones-type of cult,'' he said. In 1978 more than 900 people died in the jungles of Guyana after cult leader Jim Jones ordered a mass suicide. Crouch, in offhand remarks to reporters at the conclusion of the briefing, admitted he might have been ''recruited'' by the Chinese government in their cause to suppress Falun Gong. ''I suppose in a sense that I was,'' he said. But Crouch left no doubt he disapproved of the cult, saying he ''certainly doesn't approve of it'' in the U.S., but was powerless to fight it in a country where ''even the Church of Satan'' is legal. Crouch also made clear his support for China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which faces a crucial vote in the U.S. Congress later this month. Opponents of the trade bill have voiced concern over China's suppression of religious freedom. Crouch vehemently denied there was any connection between his strong pro-China statement and the incredibly fast inroad his network has made into China. Even as he spoke, workers were installing his cable channel into Beijing's prestigious China World hotel -- barely a week after first being approached by the Chinese government about of broadcasting within the officially atheist state. Asked about why the Vatican still fails to recognize China, Crouch intimated Pope John Paul II's health prevents the ailing pontiff from getting an accurate picture of the country. ''His Holiness is probably not quite as mobile as I have been,'' he said. Crouch admitted his media organization -- which describes itself as the world's largest Christian television broadcast network -- has a long road before it reaches large numbers of Chinese viewers. He noted that within several months he expected the service -- which offers a wide variety of religious programming -- to be available in international hotels and foreign residential compounds. Access to China's cable network would follow. Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist, and folk religions that preaches good health and morality can be attained through special exercises. Beijing cracked down on the movement in July last year, and tens of thousands of supporters have been detained in the intervening 10 months.
Police detained up to 200 people in Tiananmen Square yesterday as they crushed wave after wave of protests by the banned Falun Gong movement to mark their founder's birthday. Scenes of chaos gripped the square all morning as hundreds of police battled to snuff out small-scale protests erupting across the vast central esplanade. At one stage a group of 15 protesters unfurled two giant seven-metre red banners, before they were engulfed by scores of police who knocked them to the ground and ripped the banners out their hands. Falun Gong members raised at least a dozen banners. Each time large numbers of police sprinted to the scene and the protesters were bundled into the back of police vans. A young man and three young women standing in the middle of the square simultaneously raised four white banners with the emblem Falun Dafa (Great Law of the Wheel) in red characters. As police intervened, one woman was dragged by her hair along the ground towards a van. Other protesters were kicked as they lay on the ground, punched or put in headlocks. At regular intervals over a four-hour period many small groups of people, mainly middle-aged and elderly women from the countryside, were detained without protest. Falun Gong practitioners, who have flocked to the square in their thousands to protest against the banning of the movement since it was outlawed in July, tend to admit they are group members when asked. Police officers were heard to ask people if they belonged to a ``heretical cult'', while Falun Gong practitioners were heard to reply ``no, we belong to a just movement''. The protest was one of the largest by the movement since it was banned. It gradually petered out towards midday but the occasional protester was still being led away. At least three foreign journalists and photographers were also detained, along with a Swedish tourist who had set up his video to film the Forbidden City. ``We are just a group of tourists and we know absolutely nothing about what is going on,'' said one of the tour group, as other tourists were forced to expose their films. The protests came a day after the communist government put out contradictory statements claiming victory over the group but also warning that Falun Gong still posed a danger to society. They also came as Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong held a small parade to celebrate the birthday of the movement's exiled founder Li Hongzhi _ the same birthday as the Buddha. A Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York, where Mr Li lives, said she expected more protests in the coming days as Saturday had been designated World Falun Dafa Day to mark the movement's eighth anniversary. ``I anticipate they're going to go out there every day as they have done in the past.'' Falun Gong claims tens of millions of followers in China, attracted by Mr Li's eclectic teachings in traditional qigong Chinese breathing exercises and Buddhist and Taoist philosophies.
"Falun Gong followers held"
(BBC, May 11, 2000)
More than 50 followers of the Falun Gong religious movement have been arrested in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They were silently marking the birthday of Falun Gong founder, Li Hongzhi, who lives in exile in the United States.
Witnesses said some followers were kicked and beaten by police as they were detained.
A Falun Gong follower is hauled away
The Chinese Government outlawed Falun Gong last July after branding it an "evil cult". Members say thousands of practitioners have been rounded up since the ban.
Followers arrived in Tiananmen Square early in the morning and began meditating in small groups.
Witnesses said demonstrators managed to unfurl large banners bearing the name of their movement before they were arrested.
The movement claims tens of millions of followers in China
Many were middle-aged women who got quietly into the police vans after being detained.
But reports said one man endured kicking, beating and slapping by plainclothes police as he shouted: "I am practising Falun Gong. What can you do to me?"
Police also forced tourists with cameras to expose their film, and one with a video camera was detained.
Falun Gong, which claimed tens of millions of followers in China before it was outlawed, combines traditional Chinese breathing exercises with Buddhist and Taoist philosophies.
In recent months, practitioners have flocked to Tiananmen Square to protest against the ban.
Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi is in exile
The nationwide crackdown was sparked in April last year after 10,000 followers gathered in Beijing in a silent protest against official harassment.
Key leaders of the group have since been sentenced to up to 18 years in prison.
Earlier this week the authorities said they had accomplished a decisive victory over the movement and that 98% of its followers had recanted.
In Hong Kong, the only part of China where Falun Gong is not banned, practitioners staged a parade to celebrate Mr Li's birthday.
The Falun Gong movement in New York said the organisation was planning events in 120 cities in 30 countries to mark World Falun Dafa Day on Saturday.
Thursday's protests marked the 48th birthday of Mr Li who has not been seen in public since China banned the movement and put him on its most wanted list.
Beijing's crackdown has been strongly criticised by Western governments and human rights groups.
But China's state media marked the day with a lengthy commentary declaring a "decisive victory" over Falun Gong.
"This is an important political struggle affecting the country's future and fate and a great dissemination of the scientific Marxist world view," said Xinhua news agency.
"This victory has fundamentally smashed the evil cult organisation of Falun Gong and isolated a small number of hard-liners headed by Li Hongzhi."
Concern is growing for the welfare of three Chinese students who have been refused permission to return to Ireland, where they had been taking courses, because of their membership of the outlawed Buddhist movement Falun Gong.
They were arrested on a visit home to Beijing last Christmas and ordered to sign statements denouncing the organisation, banned as an "evil cult" by the Chinese government.
The three had their passports confiscated and if found guilty of renewing their links with Falun Gong, whose practices include breathing exercises and meditation, they face prosecution and long prison sentences.
One of the three, Mr Zhao Ming (29), who had been studying computer science at Trinity College Dublin, narrowly escaped arrest last month after attending a demonstration against official harassment in Tianan-men Square at which up to 100 people were detained by police. He has since gone into hiding.
Ms Dai Dongxue, a Dublinbased Falun Gong member, said: "If the police find him he is in danger of being put into prison, and that could mean many years in jail, or worse."
Sentences against Falun Gong members have become longer in recent months, increasing to almost 20 years in some cases. There are fears the death penalty will be introduced shortly to act as a further deterrent. At least 18 Falun Gong members have died in police custody since the ban came into force 10 months ago. These include two from Ms Dongxue's province of Shandong, "a 60-year-old lady who died after a three-day beating and a man in his 40s who died after one day of torture."
Ms Dongxue, a Microsoft employee in Dublin, was arrested when she went to Beijing for a holiday last December. She considered herself fortunate not to suffer any ill-treatment and to be able to return to Ireland after spending only a few hours in detention. However, she said "there is a policy that people coming from outside China are treated better than the local people".
The two other students arrested with Mr Ming were Ms Yang Fang (29), an accountancy student at Dún Laoghaire Senior College, who was held in police custody for 40 days, and Mr Liu Feng (23), a marketing student at Dún Laoghaire Community College. Neither was able to move around freely or to meet other Falun Gong members, said Ms Dongxue.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Ireland had expressed its concern to China about the number of arrests and the heavy sentences imposed on Falun Gong members. The Government also urged the Chinese authorities not to act against the principles of the UN covenants signed by China, in particular those relating to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
However, regarding the three students, the Department said that because none were Irish citizens "Ireland has no consular function in this matter. As they are Chinese citizens they are subject to the laws of China while in that country, including in respect of Falun Gong".
To mark the first World Falun Gong Day, Dublin-based practitioners will hold open exercises at Grafton Street between 10.30 a.m. and 6 p.m. this Saturday, May 13th. Further information on Falun Gong can be found at www.minghui.ca/eng.html or www.falundafa.org
BEIJING (AP) -- Marking the birthday of their movement's founder, dozens of followers of the banned Falun Gong sect tried to unfurl banners and meditate in Tiananmen Square on Thursday, meeting swift, sometimes violent arrest. One woman ran from a clutch of plainclothes security, only to be tackled and sent sprawling on the square's paving stones. Police kicked several followers after they, like the others detained, were forced inside a van to be driven off the square. By midmorning Thursday, police detained at least 50 followers who mounted small but sustained protests across the square in central Beijing. Plainclothes and uniformed security raced from side to side to quell the outbursts of civil disobedience. Police vans circled the plaza. The frenzy resembled the confrontation between sect members and police on April 25 when followers gathered for the first anniversary of a demonstration by 10,000 practitioners. That protest shocked China's leaders. Three months later, they banned the group as a public menace and threat to Communist Party rule. Despite more than nine months of repression, a smear campaign in the state media and the jailing of thousands, Falun Gong followers have continued to stage protests nearly every day in Tiananmen Square -- although not on the scale of Thursday's demonstration. Thursday was special. The eighth day of the fourth month by the traditional lunar calendar once used in China and in much of Asia, Thursday marked the anniversary of the birth of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Siddharta. Falun Gong followers believe their master, Li Hongzhi, was born on that day, too. "Chinese practitioners assume this is the date to honor the master," said Gail Rachlin, a spokeswoman for Falun Gong in New York. She expected more protests on May 13, Saturday, Li's birthday by the Western calendar and the anniversary of Falun Gong's founding in 1992. Chinese officials, however, say records show that Li was born on July 7, 1952. They accuse him of changing his birth date to add to his mystique. Li left China for New York in 1998 after the government quietly banned his books. He has not been seen in public since shortly after China banned Falun Gong last July. Overseas Web sites for the group show a picture of Li meditating in the mountains but it bears no date or location. An ex-government grain clerk, Li founded Falun Gong as an offshoot of traditional slow-motion exercises known as qi gong. To those, he added a blend of Buddhist and Taoist cosmology and his own often unorthodox ideas. Followers claim that practice promotes health and good citizenship. The Chinese government, however, has accused the group of causing 1,559 deaths -- mostly among devotees who refused medical treatment -- leading to psychiatric problems in 600 others and cheating people by making them spend lavishly on books and teachings. But the campaign has won little public sympathy for the government, and the police, frustrated by their inability to quash the group, have used tougher tactics. One middle-aged woman ran from police Thursday only to be caught by plainclothes security, who grabbed and pushed her into a van. Another sat down, forcing several police to haul her away half-seated. Police detained at least two Western tourists, apparently for taking photographs of the demonstrations. At least three foreign journalists had their film confiscated. The government claimed victory anew over the group Thursday. In an editorial carried in national newspapers, the official Xinhua News Agency said that 98 percent of all Falun Gong followers had severed ties to the group. "The victory has greatly raised the political vigilance of the nation, saved and protected a large number of the cheated, punished the evil and maintained the social stability of the country," Xinhua said.
BEIJING: Authorities were warning yesterday that Falun Gong ``die-hards'' continued to pose a threat even as the group announced that there would be events across the world this week to mark Falun Dafa Day. In a commentary entitled ``Never Underestimate'', Xinhua news agency claimed a threat remained to the Chinese people despite the crackdown on the movement. ``Falun Gong has not diminished despite months of a nationwide campaign,'' it was admitted. ``The fight against the Falun Gong cult is a long-term, complicated and arduous one.'' The editorial, which first appeared in People's Daily on Tuesday, pointed to a mass protest in Tiananmen Square on February 5 _ the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of followers were arrested _ as evidence the group was still battling authorities. ``A handful of die-hard Falun Gong elements are still trying to launch long-term resistance against the authorities,'' it said. Beijing leaders launched a massive campaign against the movement after it assembled some 10,000 followers around the Zhongnanhai headquarters of the Communist Party in the capital in April last year to protest at their imminent banning. Despite a campaign that saw core Falun Gong leaders jailed for up to 18 years, followers have continued to arrive in Tiananmen for almost daily protests. Officials have portrayed the group as similar to Japan's Aum Supreme Truth doomsday group, which gassed the Tokyo subway, or the American Branch-Davidians, 86 of whom perished in a confrontation with authorities in Texas. The Falun Gong response has been to insist it had no political aims and merely advocated moral and healthy living. A spokeswoman for the Falun Gong in New York said that the organisation, which has claimed 100 million members worldwide and 80 million in China, was planning events in 120 cities in 30 countries to mark World Falun Dafa Day on Saturday. But the organisation was having difficulties contacting members in China, she said, and could not be sure what events would be held.
Followers of the banned Falun Gong sect honoured the birthday of their movement's founder on Thursday, protesting by the dozens in Tiananmen Square only to meet swift and sometimes forceful arrest by mainland police.
Followers tried to unfurl banners and raise their arms in a meditation pose used by the group. Plainclothes police darted across the square to quell the separate acts of civil disobedience by small groups of sect members while vans raced back and forth to pick up the captured.
One middle-aged woman ran from the scene only to be caught by plainclothes security, who grabbed and pushed her into a van. Another sat down, forcing several police to haul her away half-seated.
At least 50 people were taken away within about 90 minutes. Tourists, taken aback by the frenzy on the normally crowded but peaceful square, watched the protests. At least two Western tourists were detained, apparently for taking pictures.
The scene resembled the confrontation between sect members and police on April 25, when followers gathered for the first anniversary of a demonstration by 10,000 followers. The huge protest shocked mainland leaders and three months later they banned Falun Gong as a public menace and threat to Communist Party rule.
Followers insist that Falun Gong promotes health and good citizenship. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a blend of slow-motion exercises, Buddhist and Taoist cosmology and the often unorthodox ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi, an ex-government grain clerk who now lives in New York.
Founded in 1992, Falun Gong quickly established a following among millions of Chinese and millions more abroad. They revere Mr Li, referring to him as ''master,'' and on Thursday they came to Tiananmen Square for him.
By the traditional lunar calendar once used in the mainland and much of Asia, on Thursday marked the anniversary of the birth of the Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism. To Falun Gong followers, it is Mr Li's birthday too. The mainland claims Mr Li was born on July 7, 1952, but changed his records in 1994 to build up his mystique.
''Chinese practitioners assume this is the date to honour the master,'' said Gail Rachlin, a New York-based spokeswoman for Falun Gong. She expected more protests on May 13, Saturday, Mr Li's birthday by the Gregorian calendar used in the West and the anniversary of Falun Gong's founding.
BEIJING, May 11 (Reuters) - Chinese police detained scores of Falun Gong adherents in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday, kicking and beating some as they staged peaceful protests to mark the birthday of the movement's founder.
Members of the spiritual movement were taken away in police vans after at least a dozen of the brief protests Falun Gong disciples have held almost daily in the heart of Beijing since the Communist Party banned the group last July.
One witness alone counted 30 being taken away from the vast square, teeming with tourists on a sunny, early summer day.
Young adult followers in groups of three to five, some with children, dashed out into the huge plaza and attempted to unfurl Falun Gong banners before being corralled, roughed up and shoved into waiting police vans, he said.
One man endured kicking, beating and slapping by plainclothes police as he continued to shout: ``I am practising Falun Gong. What can you do to me?''
Practitioners of Falun Gong also protested in Hong Kong on Thursday against China's crackdown on the group.
Sixteen followers gathered at the Beijing Liaison Office in Hong Kong to demand that China stop suppressing the group.
One Falun Gong follower in Hong Kong, Wendy Fang, a software engineer who has resided in the United States, said she was confident China would recognise the spiritual movement soon.
``I think we show them we want to practise the Buddhist Law. It shows us our strong belief,'' she said.
Thursday's protests marked the 48th birthday of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in exile in the United States and has not been seen in public since last July, when China banned the movement and put him atop its most wanted list.
China says Li was born on July 7, 1952 and accuses him of forging birth documents to give himself the same birthday as the Buddha. Li has denied this.
Li's last personal statement on the official Falun Gong Web site is dated July 23, 1999 and the most recent picture of him, sitting serenely in the lotus position on a mountainside in the United States, was also taken in July.
His once-obscure group has defied a fierce government crackdown and kept up sporadic protests for almost an entire year, protesting against what they say is the persecution of their faith, a synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and meditation.
CHINA DECLARES VICTORY
China's state media marked the day with a lengthy commentary declaring a ``decisive victory'' over Falun Gong, which shocked the government with a 10,000-member sit-in at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese seat of power, on April 25, 1999.
``This is an important political struggle affecting the country's future and fate and a great dissemination of the scientific Marxist world view,'' said Xinhua news agency.
``This victory has fundamentally smashed the evil cult organisation of Falun Gong and isolated a small number of hard-liners headed by Li Hongzhi,'' the agency said.
The crackdown on Falun Gong, which has been widely deplored by human rights groups for its violence and violation of Chinese constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, was ``part of international society's struggle against cults,'' it said.
Falun Gong claims a global membership of 70 to 100 million and says Communist authorities have arrested more than 35,000 people since banning the movement, sending at least 5,000 members to labour camps without trial and subjecting many to torture.
At least 15 adherents have died in police custody from beatings or after hunger strikes, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democracy.
Xinhua said on Thursday China had brought legal cases against 99 people, meting out criminal punishment to 84. China has acknowledged several deaths in custody but said they were either suicides or from pre-existing medical conditions.
FILL REALM OF THOUGHT WITH MARXISM
The Communist Party, which says there were never more than two million Falun Gong members in China, asserts that 98 percent of them have left the group. China blames Falun Gong for causing 1,500 deaths by suicide or from refusing medical care.
The Xinhua commentary denounced Falun Gong as a superstitious and feudal movement which had to be fought by scientific education and ``thought education'' in the Communist classics.
``This again warns us that when Marxism does not occupy a forward position in the realm of ideology, non-Marxist or anti-Marxist thought will inevitably take over,'' it said.
BEIJING, May 11 (Kyodo) - Dozens of members of the banned religious group Falun Gong were arrested on Tiananmen Square on Thursday -- the birthday of founder and self-exiled leader Li Hongzhi.
The protesters were rounded up underneath the fluttering white cross and red field of Denmark's flag. Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is visiting China in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and, keeping with diplomatic protocol, the Scandinavian country's flag flies next to China's own on the square's lampposts.
The heavy police presence in the square ensured demonstrators were quickly arrested and spirited away in police vans. In the early afternoon, a young male was instantly surrounded by five uniformed and plainclothes policemen when he unfurled a bright yellow Falun Gong banner.
Although the world's largest public square was peppered with police vans, the usual throngs of tourists -- unaware of the day's import to Falun Gong practitioners -- went about their sightseeing.
The official media marked the Falun Gong-related occasion by issuing a long article Thursday trumpeting the Communist Party's ''decisive victory'' over the banned sect.
''The victory has greatly raised the political vigilance of the nation, saved and protected a large number of the cheated, punished the evil, and maintained the social stability of the country,'' the People's Daily said.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist, and folk religions that preaches that good health and morality can be attained through special exercises. The government cracked down on the movement in July last year, and tens of thousands of supporters have been detained in the intervening 10 months.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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