A few Falun Gong followers protested in Tiananmen Square yesterday but plans for a mass demonstration and petition on the second last day of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress appeared to have fallen through.
Despite several large Falun Gong protests last week to mark the first anniversary of legislation outlawing the sect, security around the square was more relaxed than usual, with just one police mini-van patrolling among a few hundred tourists.
Plainclothes and uniformed officers detained about a dozen suspected Falun Gong members, most of whom walked quietly into the van. Two protesters tried to raise banners, while another started to perform Falun Gong breathing exercises, witnesses said.
Adherents of Falun Gong, which contains Taoist and Buddhist elements and involves traditional Chinese physical exercises, have protested almost daily in Tiananmen Square since the movement was banned in July last year.
Yesterday's protests coincided with reports that five more Falun Gong followers had died of ill treatment in police custody, taking the total number of reported deaths to 65.
Xie Guiying, 32, was beaten to death this month after struggling with police who took her from her home in Huainan city in Anhui province, the SAR-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Liu Yucai, 60, a private doctor from Jilin province, was beaten to death after being detained during another Falun Gong protest on Tiananmen Square on October 1st, it said.
Separately, a Falun Gong member in Dalian claimed that three followers there had died in detention, one as a result of police maltreatment.
Zou Wenzhi, 54, a worker at a chemical plant under the Dalian Dahua Group, died soon after being taken into custody and held at the factory's security department on October 16, said the Falun Gong member, who lives in Dalian.
Dong Yongwei, 50, from a village near Dalian, died just hours after being released from 12 days of detention in late July and early August, according to the Falun Gong member.
The third fatality, Wang Youju, 64, was a former principal of a public health school in Wafangdian, a city about 75km north of Dalian, the sect member said.
Wang was detained on July 22 and died of a heart attack nine days later in a Wafangdian detention centre.
According to the Falun Gong member, police have offered to pay 3,000 yuan (HK$2,820) in compensation to Wang's son, but he has refused and plans to file a lawsuit against the authorities.
BEIJING - A human rights group said Monday that three followers of Falun Gong died in police custody, including one man who the group said was beaten to death after refusing to renounce his membership in the meditation sect.
Wang Bin, a 47-year-old computer specialist, was beaten for three hours by guards at the Dongfeng labor camp, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported. He died Oct. 5, the Hong Kong-based group said.
The group also said Xie Guiying, 32, died of a beating at a police station on Oct. 18 in the eastern city of Zhunan. Liu Yucai, 60, a private doctor from northeastern Jilin province, died in a Beijing police station on Oct. 6, the report said.
The deaths raise to 62 the number of sect followers who have died in detention since China banned the Falun Gong in July 1999.
Chinese officials have declined to discuss individual reports of police abuse against Falun Gong members, but deny that any followers have died from police mistreatment.
Wang's former colleagues at an oil field management institute in the northern city of Daching are demanding that his killers be prosecuted, and sent a representative to discuss the case with police on Monday, the human rights group said.
A Communist Party official at the institute, who would only give his surname, Cui, said he had heard of Wang's death and the protests, but declined to provide details. He said he did not know how police responded to the representative's visit.
Arrests of Falun Gong members in Beijing's Tiananmen Square have become increasingly violent. On Thursday, police pummeled and dragged Falun Gong members to waiting vans, kicking one man in the stomach and head until blood ran from his mouth.
Falun Gong attracted millions of members during the 1990s, offering a combination of slow-motion exercises, Buddhist and Taoist teachings and the often unorthodox ideas of its founder, former government clerk Li Hongzhi, who has left China.
BEIJING - A handful of members of the Falun Gong spiritual group staged sporadic protests in Tiananmen Square on Monday a year after Beijing passed new legislation outlawing the group
Plans for a mass demonstration and a petition on the penultimate day of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) -- China's parliament -- appeared to have fallen through
Despite several large Falun Gong protests last week, security around the square was more relaxed than usual with just one police minivan patrolling among a few hundred tourists, witnesses said
Plainclothes and uniformed officers detained about a dozen suspected Falun Gong members, most of whom walked quietly into the van. Two protesters tried to raise banners, while another man started to perform Falun Gong breathing exercises, they said
Falun Gong members had been expected to issue a petition on Monday to mark the latest in a string of sensitive dates -- the first anniversary of a resolution passed by the NPC Standing Committee which outlawed all "heretic cults."
That allowed tougher sentences on Falun Gong organisers
Adherents of Falun Gong, a mixture of Daoism and Buddhism and traditional Chinese physical exercises, have protested almost daily in Tiananmen Square, China's political heart, since the movement was banned in July last year
But they have staged larger, better-organised protests around key dates, like Saturday's first anniversary of an editorial in the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, which first declared Falun Gong an "evil cult."
MORE DEATHS IN CUSTODY
Monday's protests also coincided with a report that three more Falun Gong followers had died of ill treatment in police custody, taking the total number of such deaths to 62
One of the latest victims was Wang Bin, 47, a computer technician in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement
Wang died on October 5 after being beaten for three hours for refusing to write a statement promising not to practise Falun Gong again, the centre said
Another, Xie Guiying, 32, was beaten to death this month after struggling with police who took her from her home in Huainan city in the eastern province of Anhui, it said
Liu Yucai, 60, a private doctor from the northeastern province of Jilin, was beaten to death after being detained during another Falun Gong protest on Tiananmen Square on China's October 1 National Day, it said
Authorities have acknowledged several deaths in custody, but say most resulted from suicide or illnesses
Falun Gong representatives said Monday's turnout could have been thinned by asecurity crackdown over the weekend, but insisted that protests were not centrally organised or politically motivated
"There have never been any banners and slogans against the government," said Sophie Xiao, a spokeswoman for Falun Gong in Hong Kong. "We just want the freedom to practise. We have no political agenda at all."
In Hong Kong, about 80 Falun Gong members meditated outside Beijing's Central Liaison Office to urge China to release their bretheren jailed on the mainland
Wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the words "China Stop Persecuting Falun Gong," the followers went through their slow-motion exercises in the busy Causeway Bay district
Around them were blown up pictures of bruised limbs, which the group said were photographs of injuries sustained by fellow practitioners while in custody or in jail on mainland China
Beijing has accused Falun Gong of trying to overthrow the government, detained thousands of adherents, and jailed some 150 prominent members for "using a cult to obstruct justice."
The movement says some 50,000 followers have been detained. Many are sent for "reform through labour," a punishment which does not require a trial.
Protesters from the banned Falun Gong movement trying to distribute leaflets in Tiananmen Square yesterday were kicked and beaten by police and dragged off in a police van
Five women and two men were taken away after some shouted "Falun Gong is good". Several refused arrest and had to be carried struggling into the van, while one police officer hit their backs with a baton
The protesters were hurling leaflets into the air as police frantically tried to collect them before they were picked up by onlookers
The leaflets were carrying anti-government news, including a report saying Premier Zhu Rongji was opposed to the crackdown on Falun Gong, a Bhuddist-inspired religious movement
According to the leaflet, the Prime Minister on Monday visited the Beijing police force's fifth department, which is in charge of handling anti-government protests, urging the officers "to stop putting pressure on Falun Gong practitioners"
The leaflet claimed that the crackdown on the movement had been decided unilaterally by President Jiang Zemin and that other leaders such as Mr Zhu and Vice-President Hu Jintao had not been in favour of taking such a tough line
An elderly man who appeared to be an innocent bystander was taken for a Falun Gong member and beaten on the back of the head. He was saved from arrest at the last minute by his wife
The incident took place as crowds of local and foreign tourists looked on, prompting police to strip films from their cameras after the incident
Loudspeakers in the square started blaring patriotic and military songs, while male and female officers urged onlookers to disperse. Security was tight, with police vans criss-crossing the square
Police have been on the watch after two days of protests late last week when about 150 sect members were detained
The mainland's Draconian crackdown on the Falun Gong began after 10,000 followers stunned the leadership by demonstrating in central Beijing in April last year.
About two hundred followers of China's spiritual movement, Falun Gong, were manhandled away from Tiananmen Square in Peking yesterday as they marked the first anniversary of the criminalisation of the movement.
On 30 October last yearthe parliament rushed through an "anti-cult" law to criminalise retroactively Falun Gong and several groups it was feared were becoming too popular.
But one year on there is still no shortage of supporters prepared to risk arrest, torture and death by protesting in Tiananmen Square.
Ironically, the Chinese crackdown has pushed membership of the Taiwan Falun Gong Research Society to new heights. The Taiwanese branch, run by Tsao Huei-Ling and her husband, now has 30,000 members. While Peking wages war on the "evil sect" it accuses of subversion, Taipei happily condones the activities of the Falun Gong faithful.
Their slogans beckon the curious on buses, between adverts for ways to a better life business studies in the United States on one side, and a range of cosmetics on the other.
Believers are undisturbed as they perform their slow-motion exercises. The memorial hall that looms over their daily ritual houses not Chairman Mao, but an exhibition to his arch enemy Chiang Kai-shek.
"I thought Falun Gong must be good after I saw television news of the mainland authorities arresting people in Tiananmen," said Han Lee-chuan, whocomes to Taipei's Forest Park to meditate with a group ranging from students to great-grandmothers.
Ms Tsao said the Chinese government "has created trouble for itself" with the crackdown, under which thousands have been imprisoned. "We are not plotting to overthrow the Communist Party, that's ridiculous. Falun Gong practitioners should not be concerned with politics. But once millions of practitioners outnumbered the Communist Party, they were frightened we would unite and protest against them."
Ms Han, 59 and retired, said: "People who knew me before say 'how come you have such spirit now?' I used to feel tired all the time, every day was passing and I was getting old. I felt pains in my legs, back and waist. But after practising Falun Gong all my ailments have gone. Now I have a purpose in life."
The feeling of rejuvenation is common among adherents. As Ms Han sat oblivious to the world in deep cultivation of the all-important "mind-nature", her stall of leaflets attracts a few onlookers. But unlike their mainland cousins, the 23 million citizens of Taiwan are somewhat spoilt for choice.
"There is religious freedom here," said Huang Ke-chang, director of Taiwan's Religious Affairs Department. "More than 11 million people follow one of 16 different religions.
"As long as people obey the law, they can believe what they like. But we don't even think of Falun Gong as a religion. They registered as a sports organisation, and we have had no trouble from them," said Mr Huang.
BEIJING, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Dozens of members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement demonstrated in Tiananmen Square on Friday and were hustled away by waiting police, a year after the Communist Party declared the group an "evil cult."
Police sprinted backwards and forwards around the vast plaza as small groups of protesters simultaneously pulled out red or yellow banners proclaiming support for the outlawed movement.
"Falun Gong is good," shouted one elderly man before seven plainclothes officers wrestled him to the ground, punched and kicked him, and carried him to a police minivan.
Seconds later, a group of three elderly women tried to unfurl a red banner, but police ripped it from them and bundled them into a van, pulling one by the hair and punching another.
Police have tightened security in Beijing as Falun Gong members are expected to mark the anniversary of their cult status with a petition, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said on Thursday.
Adherents of Falun Gong, a mixture of Daoism and Buddhism and traditional Chinese physical exercises, have protested almost daily in Tiananmen Square, China's political heart, since the movement was banned in July last year.
But they have staged larger, better-organised protests around key dates, like Saturday's first anniversary of an editorial in the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, which first declared Falun Gong an "evil cult."
Monday marks the anniversary of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, outlawing "heretic" cults, including the already banned Falun Gong.
That allowed tougher sentences on Falun Gong organisers.
Beijing has since demonised the group in state media and accused it of trying to overthrow the government. Thousands of adherents have been detained and some 150 prominent members jailed for "using a cult to obstruct justice."
But recent protests, including a large demonstration on the October 1 National Day, show Beijing has failed to stamp out allegiance to the group and its U.S.-based leader Li Hongzhi.
Such sustained protest is rare in China and Frank Lu, a spokesman for the Hong Kong rights group, said "that's because a lot of Falun Gong members are not afraid of being sent to jail or even being killed."
He said there were also protests outside Beijing.
His rights group had received reports on Friday from Changchun in Jilin province that some 100 Falun Gong adherents had been on a protest hunger strike for five days, he said.
"Many hunger strikers have died from being force-fed in the past," Lu said.
The centre says 59 people have died of abusive treatment in detention since Falun Gong was outlawed.
Authorities have acknowledged several deaths in custody, but say most resulted from suicide or illnesses.
The movement, which denies any political aim, says some 50,000 followers have been detained. Many are sent for "reform through labour," a punishment which does not require a trial.
Beijing accuses the group of causing 1,500 deaths through a belief that faith can heal illnesses and 600 cases of mental illness.
Friday's protests were spread over several hours and appeared to attract greater attention than usual from the thousands of mainly Chinese tourists milling around the square.
They rushed from one incident to the next in large crowds to watch the action and several argued angrily with police when their identification cards and bags were checked.
A foreign tourist who took photographs of one incident had the film ripped from his camera by a policeman.
Two more followers of the outlawed Falungong mystical group have died in police custody, a Hong Kong-based rights group said Thursday.
The deaths bring to 59 the number of group members who are known to have died in suspicious circumstances in police custody since Falungong was banned in July last year, according to the Information Center on Human Rights and Democracy.
Qi Fengqin, 43, a former official in Liaocheng city, eastern Shandong province died on October 11 after police in the detention center where she was incarcerated tried to force feed her following a hunger strike, the center said.
Police attempted to force liquified food down her throat via tubes, but she died when the liquid got into her lungs, it said.
It was not immediately possible to confirm Qi's death with local authorities or her former employer, the local forestry department.
The center said she was arrested on September 10 for passing out materials documenting the government's "persecution" of Falungong.
Also dead was Zong Hengjie, 34, arrested by police in Shengyang city, northern Liaoning province in September and who was believed by his family to have died after repeated beatings in prison, the center said.
Tiexi district police confirmed to AFP that Zong had died, but denied he was beaten to death.
"He committed suicide because he wanted to escape punishment," an unnamed policeman at the Tiexi station told AFP.
Zong jumped from a fourth-storey window at the detention center where he was locked up. He was being held for passing out materials opposing the government crackdown on the group, the policeman said.
China's communist government labelled the Falungong group the biggest threat to its one-party rule since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests and banned the movement in July 1999.
On October 30, 1999, China's legislature formally labelled the group an "evil sect," opening the way for a further crackdown.
The rights center said members of the group were already amassing in Beijing to commemorate the anniversary of last year's legislative decision.
Members of the spiritual group follow the Buddhist-inspired teachings of their exiled guru Li Hongzhi, who advocates clean living and group morning exercises that involve traditional Chinese breathing routines.
Since the ban, some 450 members have received prison sentences of up to 18 years, more than 600 have been sent to mental hospitals, 10,000 have been placed in labor camps and another 20,000 locked up in temporary detention centers, the center said.
BEIJING (AP) - Members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect staged a brief but large protest on Tiananmen Square on Thursday, scattering leaflets and raising banners before Chinese police violently ended the demonstration.
Plainclothes police in groups of 10 or more pounced on small bands of sect members spread throughout the plaza in central Beijing. The officers pummeled and shoved protesters into police vans.
One man, thrown to the ground, was kicked in the stomach and head until blood ran from his mouth onto the gray flagstones. An elderly woman was dragged by her hair for several yards as bystanders pleaded with police to stop.
At least 100 sect members were taken away in a 15-minute flurry of activity Thursday afternoon. One witness saw 30 police vans filled with protesters driving off the square, which could put the numbers detained over several hundred.
Columns of paramilitary police marched onto the square as tourists were cleared from China's best known public monument for about 20 minutes to bring the protest under control.
The protest was the second large-scale demonstration by Falun Gong members this month. On Oct. 1 - China's National Day - followers used similar tactics, provoking a rough response and forcing police to close off the plaza, a highly embarrassing act on a public holiday that celebrates Communist Party rule.
Since then, the government has renewed a smear campaign in state media, accusing members of conspiring with alleged enemies - exiled dissidents and supporters of independence for Taiwan, Tibet and the Muslim northwest.
Falun Gong members claim the group has no political ambitions but want the freedom to practice their meditation exercises, which they say promote health and morality. The government has accused the sect of cheating members and causing 1,500 deaths, mainly by telling practitioners to refuse medical treatment.
Apparently caught unawares by the Oct. 1 protest, police seemed better prepared for Thursday's action - which coincided with the legislature's decision a year ago to use an anti-cult law to imprison group leaders.
Hundreds of uniformed soldiers, police and plainclothes officers waited in buses parked on the square. The plainclothes officers ran in formation to quell each outburst.
Banners raised were quickly snatched away. Police threw one man to the ground, kicking him and punching his arm until he let go of a banner. Leaflets were scooped up by police before others could get them.
``Justice is clear. Good and evil will be repaid in kind,'' one leaflet, seen before the protest, said. It accused Chinese President Jiang Zemin of being a ``tyrant'' who ignored constitutional guarantees of religious freedom: ``Jiang Zemin's blood debts are piling up. He's guilty of monstrous crimes.''
Another leaflet gave detailed allegations of the torture and killing of group members in police custody.
Since the government banned the sect 15 months ago as a public menace and a threat to communist rule, Falun Gong members claim at least 67 followers have died in custody. The government has confirmed some of the deaths but denied any mistreatment of detained sect members.
Among the latest deaths were Ji Fengqin, who died in Liaocheng city after prison guards force-fed her to break a hunger strike, and Zong Hengjie, whom prison officials in northeastern Shenyang city said committed suicide, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported Thursday.
Police have detained tens of thousands of followers in the crackdown, most only briefly. Rights groups estimate that 5,000 have been sent to labor camps without trial and the government has confirmed convicting 151 principal organizers. They have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 years.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama microbiologist and his wife, detained in China about six weeks because of their ties to an outlawed sect, are worried about fellow practitioners they left behind.
Friends and government officials in the United States lobbied the Chinese government to release Shean Lin, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his wife, Xiaohua Du.
Other Falun Gong followers don't have similar support.
``They all depend on themselves,'' said Lin after the couple's arrival Monday night. About 20 friends greeted them upon their return.
Lin, 30, and Du, 28, were detained by Chinese authorities on Sept. 8 after officials found Falun Gong materials in their possession. Falun Gong, a system of meditation and exercise, has been banned in China, where authorities consider it a cult.
Chinese dissidents in the United States claim the Clinton administration is capitulating to China by letting a Chinese sect leader sit in a jail in the US Territory, Guam, rather than act on his asylum bid.
Zhang Hongbao, who fled to Hong Kong from China in 1999 after his mediation group Zhong Gong was outlawed, was stopped in Janaury in Guam when he treid to enter on a fax passport. US officials say
A US immigration court denied his asylum request in July, but Mr. Zhang, 46, continues to sit in prison in Guam. Appeals on the immigration decision are expected both from Mr. Zhang's lawyer and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to US sources.
Officials at the State Department and the INS would not discuss the case.
China has charged the sect leader with rape and is pressing the United States for his extradition.
Ye Ning, a Chinese dissident based in Washington, accused the Clinton administration of refusing to grant asylum to Mr. Zhang in an effort to "cozy up to China like it normally does."
"The man's life is in danger if he returns to China. He deserves asylum, not jail," said Mr. Ye, of the China Democracy Movement, a US-based organization.
Complicating the case is the signing last year by China and the United States of a cooperation agreement in criminal matters.
Mr. Zhang's group, Zhong Gong, a mediation group he started in 1987 which claims millions of followers, was banned last year along with Falun Gong and other organizations practicing qigong, which strives for health and spirituality through breathing exercises and meditation.
Mr. Ye was joined at the interview by Yan Qingxin, described as the deputy chief executive officer for Zhong Gong. Also participating was Richard Long, founder of a pro-democracy publication on the Internet, China VIP references, which reports to Chinese audiences on the advances of democracy worldwide.
Mr. Long claimed the rape charges against Mr. Zhang were "trumped up" and said that if convicted, he could receive the death penalty in China.
"It's an obvious asylum case," Mr. Long said.
Mr. Ye is one of the more outspoken dissidents in the US-based China Democracy Movement, which ahs both defended and criticized Chinese dissidents.
At a recent congressional subcommittee hearing focusing on celebrated dissident Wei Jinsheng, Mr. Ye and others disrupted the proceedings with shouts criticizing Mr. Wei for trying to take over the movement he had no role in creating.
Mr. Zhang was born in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin in what was formerly known as Manchuria.
An Atlanta engineer and her husband, who spent almost two months under house arrest in China, returned home Monday determined to publicize the faith that landed them in trouble with Chinese authorities.
"We are the lucky ones," said Xiaohua Du, a 29-year-old Chinese citizen who has lived in Atlanta for five years. "But our hearts remain heavy for the thousands of Falun Gong followers still languishing in labor camps because they can't get similar help from overseas."
The couple is planning a flurry of media interviews beginning today to highlight the plight of other detainees in China.
Du and her husband, Shean Lin, were arrested Sept. 8 after Chinese officials found in their possession materials pertaining to Falun Gong, a meditation movement banned in China. After 40 days in detention, they were freed when pressure from the U.S. State Department prompted China to relent. Their return was delayed to allow time for visa renewal.
While under house arrest, the couple said they had little time to ponder their future. Lin's father died soon after their arrival. Their attention "switched from consoling the family in this time of grief to assuring them of our safety," said Du. "The fear of the government is so huge in their heart that they found it hard to believe when we told them we will be OK because we had friends in the states fighting for our release."
While the couple was in detention, friends and supporters worked tirelessly to bring their case to public attention.
Becky Yao, a Falun Gong practitioner in Atlanta who was responsible for a letter-writing campaign, said the couple's release was a result of the efforts of Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R -Ala.). Lin is a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"If it wasn't for them, I don't think we could have pressured the Chinese government into changing their mind," said Yao.
Du and Lin said they will now work toward ensuring that other detainees receive similar support.
"There's a student from North(ern) Ireland who was arrested on a similar charge as ours and who's still in jail," Du said. "Our release proves that the Chinese government can be forced to reconsider, and we will have to fight to make them do so in every case now."
After being unable to leave China for nearly two months largely because of authorities' concerns over their Falun Gong beliefs, UAB AIDS researcher Shean Lin and his wife, Xiaohua Du, are happily back on American soil.
But their happiness is tempered by concerns about many of their fellow Falun Gong practitioners in China who lack the support that Lin and his wife had in America.
"We're still ... very, very worried about our practitioners in Beijing and other parts of China," Lin said Monday in a telephone interview. "... They all depend on themselves."
Lin a 30-year-old Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at UAB, and his wife, who has a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech and is an employee of Siemens Corp. in Atlanta, landed in New York late Sunday night. The couple flew to the southern Chinese city of Fouzhou in early September to be with Lin's dying father. But the two Chinese citizens were temporarily detained by authorities after Falun Gong material was found in their possession.
Over the next 40 days, Lin said, Fouzhou police interviewed him and his wife five times, told them to be available whenever they wanted to talk to them and, initially at least, told them they could put them in jail. While Lin and his wife could not tell if police had them under surveillance, "they were fully aware of what we were doing every day," Lin said.
Falun Gong is a system of meditation and exercise drawn from Buddhist and Taoist teachings. Practitioners say it is simply a way for people to improve their spiritual and physical health. But it has been banned in China, where authorities consider it a cult and a threat to security. The U.S. State Department has cited reports that thousands of practitioners have been tortured and jailed.
Lin said official Chinese hostility toward Falun Gong was evident in the types of questions police asked him and his wife.
"They wanted to know if Falun Gong is a big organization," Lin said. "... They wanted to know if our trip was carefully arranged. They had the wrong impression that Falun Gong is an organization that is trying to overthrow the government. They have this impression because of the Chinese government propaganda."
Lin said the way in which he and his wife responded to police questions was in keeping with their Falun Gong faith.
"They have a lot of impressions that Falun Gong practitioners are crazy," Lin said. "... We very calmly and peacefully talked with them every time. We never argued with them. We never criticized them ... and we told them we understood they were just following orders."
As they talked with police and wondered what awaited them, efforts were being made on their behalf at home. Those efforts took the form of petition drives, news media articles and lobbying by the State Department and federal lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills. Lin said those efforts bore fruit, because police seemed "shocked so many people ... were helping us."
Because of the overseas interest in the case, and his and Xiaohua's efforts to show the nonthreatening nature of Falun Gong, the authorities' attitude softened somewhat over time, Lin said. By late September, he and his wife had their passports back and their airline tickets. All that remained was getting U.S. visas.
On Saturday morning, when they expected to leave Beijing's airport on the first leg of a flight back to the United States, customs police took Xiaohua's passport and detained the two of them for questioning. After about three hours and what Lin believes to have been some conversations with higher authorities, police let them go to take a later flight.
"I think the police in Beijing customs, they have met Falun Gong practitioners in the past," Lin said. "They know Falun Gong practitioners are good people and they can't force us to give up our beliefs."
Lin said that unwillingness to give up their beliefs - and to share them with family and friends who may have had a propaganda-influenced view of Falun Gong - was what prompted him and Xiaohua to bring the Falun Gong material into China in the first place.
"This risk was worth taking," he said.
The couple was slated to fly into Atlanta on Monday night and attend a reception there tonight at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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