BEIJING - Chinese police detained more members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong on Thursday as the group kept up protests in the heart of Beijing over the long National Day holiday, witnesses said.
Security forces hustled at least 18 people into police vans on Thursday morning, some struggling against their captors, they said.
Police detained several hundred Falun Gong members on Sunday, herding them onto buses after protests broke out in Tiananmen Square, which was crowded with tourists for the start of the week-long holiday.
The protests over the holiday for National Day, which marks the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, highlight Beijing's failure to stamp out the group since it was banned last year.
Scores of police in uniform and plainclothes as well as paramilitary units kept a watchful eye on the square on Thursday as several police vans and buses stood nearby, witnesses said.
Security forces mingled with throngs of tourists who took advantage of the holiday to walk on the vast plaza, China's political heart.
Falun Gong members have defied the heavy police presence with similar protests almost daily since the government banned the group in July last year and branded it an ``evil cult.''
CHINA SLAMS VATICAN
Meanwhile, China accused the Vatican on Thursday of interfering in Beijing's internal affairs by canonising 120 Catholic martyrs, saying the missionaries committed serious crimes against the Chinese people.
Pope John Paul canonised the martyrs, who the Vatican says died for their faith, at a ceremony in St Peter's Square on Sunday despite a barrage of protests from China.
The new saints -- 87 Chinese and 33 missionaries -- were killed between 1648 and 1930, most in the anti-foreign Boxer uprising, when roving bands of peasants slaughtered Western missionaries, their families and Chinese converts.
The official China Daily newspaper quoted Chinese Catholics as saying the move was a distortion of history by the Vatican.
``The canonisation seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and is also a severe provocation to the Chinese nation,'' the newspaper said.
It said the selection of the group was influenced by a religious organisation in Taiwan, which showed the Vatican was pandering to Taipei.
China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic ties. Beijing says normalisation is possible only if the Holy See cuts its diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province and regards what it perceives to be moves by the island towards independence as a threat to Beijing's sovereignty.
Catholics in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Hebei, Shanxi, Fujian and Guizhou provinces held meetings calling on the Vatican to repent for its wrongdoing, the newspaper said.
Beijing's communist government does not allow its Catholics to recognise the Pope or to worship outside state churches.
After the National Day crackdown on the spiritual movement, the US says it is disturbed by Chinese repression of the group's freedom of expression
WASHINGTON -- The United States said it was disturbed by China's latest crackdown on the Falungong spiritual movement, as US-based supporters of the banned group lashed out at President Jiang Zemin.
""We find very disturbing, reports of China's use of increasingly harsh tactics to repress the Falungong spiritual movement,'' said a State Department spokesman. His comment was in response to the crackdown by the Chinese authorities on Sunday against Falungong protests during National Day celebrations.
About 1,000 Falungong practitioners were allegedly arrested as a small army of soldiers and police dragged protesters into police buses.
Group members had unfurled banners, stealing the show during celebrations marking 51 years of communist rule in China and humiliating the government more than a year after the group was banned.
""To the best of our knowledge, those detained were engaging in internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience,'' the spokesman, Mr Philip Reeker, said.
""We will continue to call upon the Chinese government to uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments to respect those rights,'' he said.
Police clamped tight surveillance on Beijing's Tiananmen Square early on Monday after protests by the group marred celebrations.
US-based supporters of Falungong, meanwhile, lashed out at China's President.
Falungong spokesman Gail Rachlin accused Mr Jiang of launching a personal crusade against the banned movement, out of fears of political insecurity.
""We believe this is a personal vendetta on his part perhaps because his ban has not worked, and he has lost face in front of the leadership for the failure of his policy.''
""He is insecure -- and lashing out,'' she said.
She said in a statement that reports from Falungong practitioners inside China spoke of a ""massive reign of terror, including a dramatic increase in brutality and illegal searches and seizures''.
The Chinese government considers Falungong, which combines martial arts, Buddhism and group founder Li Hongzhi's moral teachings, the biggest threat to its rule since pro-democracy demonstrations by students in 1989.
The group was banned last July, after about 10,000 followers surrounded the Zhongnanhai Chinese Communist Party headquarters in central Beijing on April 25.
The government has accused the group of cheating followers and causing 1,500 deaths, mostly of followers who, it said, refused medical treatment, according to the group's teachings.
Amid the year-long crackdown on Falungong, China also published rules prohibiting exercise groups from preaching religion and limited strictly their size and activities.
Police and Foreign Ministry officials are placed on alert as Falun Gong followers are reported to hold rallies to protest Beijing's crackdown on the China's spiritual movement during the Sept. 19-21 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Seoul.
There are growing fears that hundreds of local Falun Gong followers will make use of a visit by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to Korea to demonstrate against Beijing's 14-month ban on the sect.
Zhu is scheduled to visit Seoul on Sept. 17-22 to hold talks with President Kim Dae-jung and attend the ASEM summit.
A police officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said that it obtained some tips that some Korean members of the Chinese spiritual sect will hold picket rallies in front of Hotel Shilla, where Premier Zhu is expected to stay.
He said the police agency is hammering out measures to tighten security around the hotel and the venue of the ASEM assembly in southern Seoul.
Foreign Ministry officials are also afraid that the potential rallies might cause a ``diplomatic'' concern between the two neighboring countries. They expressed hope that the rallies, if realized, would not turn into violence.
Dozens of Falun Gong followers demonstrated twice this year and once last year in front of the Chinese Embassy in downtown Seoul to protest Beijing's bid to repress the meditation group.
Their protests have been peaceful. They just held a silent protest by practicing characteristic meditative exercises.
The sect members delivered a letter to the embassy on July 22, protesting China's brutal ban on the movement which was imposed on the same day a year ago.
The Chinese government outlawed the group, calling it a threat to communist rule and as a public menace that cheated members and caused 1,500 deaths.
Members maintain the group's beliefs - an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese exercise, Taoist and Buddhist cosmology and the teachings of founder Li Hongzhi - promote health and morality.
Police officers at the Chungbu Police Station near the Chinese Embassy said there is a high possibility that local Falun Gong followers will stage protest rallies during Zhu's visit and the ASEM gathering.
They reminded that Falun Gong members in the United States demonstrated in New York on the occasion of the United Nations' Millennium Summit in September.
Police have reportedly strengthened surveillance on local followers in preparation of the scheduled international gathering.
Lee Yong-sop, who introduced the spiritual movement into Korea in 1996, said he had received phone calls from police five times since July. He added police had made inquiries on local followers activities.
Lee is now in the middle of establishing a society for the research of Falun Gong principles.
He denied some allegations that he and other representatives of the burgeoning society were planning rallies against the Chinese ban. But he admitted some followers could organize protests individually through the Internet.
There are about 3,000 Falun Gong followers in Korea. They are expanding their movement by practicing meditative exercises in the Lake Park in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, and other places around the country.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States finds ``very disturbing'' reports of China's use of increasingly harsh tactics to repress the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the State Department said Monday.
The comment by State Department spokesman Philip Reeker was in response to the crackdown by Chinese authorities Sunday against Falun Gong protests during National Day celebrations.
``To the best of our knowledge, those detained were engaging in internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience,'' Reeker said.
He said the United States will continue to urge the Chinese government to uphold its obligations under international human rights conventions to respect those rights.
WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday criticised Chinese police tactics against followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement during protests in central Beijing on China's National Day on Sunday.
Police detained several hundred Falun Gong members, kicking, punching and pulling them by the hair as they herded them onto buses after the protests in Tiananmen Square.
China says the movement is a dangerous cult.
State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker said, ``We haven't been able to confirm the numbers detained but of course we find very disturbing reports of China's use of increasingly harsh tactics to repress the Falun Gong spiritual movement.''
``To the best of our knowledge, those detained were engaging in internationally recognised rights to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. So we will continue to call upon the Chinese government to uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments,'' he added.
The United States, partly in response to the crackdown on the Falun Gong movement, has named China as a ``country of particular concern'' under a law requiring the Clinton administration to report on religious persecution around the world.
BEIJING Hundreds of followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement eluded a national dragnet, penetrated heavy security around Beijing and disrupted celebrations of China's most important holiday today with protests in Tiananmen Square that ended in violent clashes with police and mass arrests.
Tens of thousands of Chinese and foreign tourists attending ceremonies marking the 51st anniversary of Communist rule in China watched as security forces chased, kicked and punched adherents of the sect, who suddenly began unfurling banners and chanting slogans a few hours after a dawn flag-raising ceremony.
Police moved quickly, shoving and dragging the protesters--mostly middle-aged men and women, some with children or elderly relatives--into minivans. As soon as they finished subduing one group, another would appear elsewhere in the vast plaza.
At times, dozens of demonstrators sat surrounded by officers waiting for new vans to navigate through the thick crowds. City buses were eventually brought in, and authorities closed most of the square for a half-hour to regain control. Scattered protests continued throughout the day.
The protest was one of the most prominent acts of civil disobedience by Falun Gong adherents since the government outlawed the movement as an "evil cult" 14 months ago. It was all the more stunning because Chinese security forces reportedly had been searching cars and trains entering the capital and rounding up sect members by the hundreds in nearby provinces to ensure a smooth National Day event. That so many Falun Gong followers made it to Tiananmen Square underscored the increasing inability of China's public security apparatus to carry out the Communist Party's will in the face of determined opposition.
Falun Gong advocates no ideology but promotes a blend of New Age beliefs and conservative social values. As recently as the early 1990s, the government supported it and published its books.
But since Falun Gong was banned, tens of thousands of adherents have been arrested, and the state-run media have conducted a relentless vilification campaign, blaming it for hundreds of deaths. President Jiang Zemin has described the crackdown--the largest since the 1989 repression of a student-led protest in Tiananmen Square--as one of China's "three major political struggles" of 1999, and it is seen as a test of the party's mettle. The latest protests indicated that the party thus far is failing that test. A U.S.-based Falun Gong organizer said as many as 1,000 people were detained today.
Tourists snapped photos during one clash this afternoon as a patriotic ballad played over loudspeakers. The protesters tried to unfurl a yellow banner and shouted, "Falun Gong is good!" as police kicked and beat them, sometimes grabbing their hair.
One woman wrapped her arms around a small child as an officer pummeled her. Another protester was kicked in the back as she climbed into a police van.
As the van pulled away, the protesters waved through the windows at the crowd that had gathered and continued mouthing, "Falun Gong is good!" Some in the crowd, holding little red Chinese flags, waved back.
SHANGHAI - Hundreds of followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement were arrested at Tiananmen Square in Beijing today, China's National Day, after recent instructions from their United States-based leader to "step forward" and "achieve consummation" by facing imprisonment or death.
In what has become a well-rehearsed ritual, plainclothes police officers sprinted from spot to spot in the crowded square, ripping down Falun Gong banners, pummeling followers and hustling the protesters into waiting police vans.
Hundreds of people were arrested from among tens of thousands of holiday tourists, said witnesses and Western news reports. The police cleared and closed part of the square for nearly an hour at one point during the day to stop the protests.
Falun Gong followers are arrested at the square almost daily after brief, largely unnoticed acts of protest -- usually attempts to unfurl a small banner or to sit in the lotus position to begin the discipline's yogalike exercises.
The numbers of protesters has generally increased on national holidays or significant dates in the group's year-and-a-half-long struggle with the government.
The protests today, on the 51st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, were the group's largest and best coordinated since Falun Gong was banned as an "evil cult" in July of last year. They came as the group's leader, Li Hongzhi, has been espousing an increasingly activist attitude.
"I'm happy for those disciples who have stepped forward," Mr. Li said in comments that were recently posted on the group's official Web site, clearwisdom.net, and which the Web site says were transcribed from a talk he gave on Sept. 24.
"Whether they are imprisoned or lose their human lives for persevering in dafa cultivation, they achieve consummation."
Dafa translates as great law and refers to the cosmology that Mr. Li lays out in his writings and to the discipline he prescribes for achieving enlightenment. Drawing from Buddhist and Taoist traditions, that cosmology describes multiple dimensions and alien beings, apocalyptic events and segregated paradises for the world's various races.
It struck a chord with many people in China, where the Communists' once unifying ideology is now ignored and where a turn toward market economics has embittered those who feel disfranchised after decades of sacrifice.
Falun Gong is also one manifestation of a growing desire for charismatic spiritual leadership in China during a period of rapid social change. While the Communist Party allows five state-sanctioned religions to operate, its requirement that religious leaders be approved by the state has kept those religions bland and passive.
A steady stream of more dynamic spiritual leaders has appeared in recent years to fill the void, from self- styled spiritual masters like Mr. Li to mystical Buddhist monks, underground Christian preachers and a network of priests loyal to the pope rather than the Patriotic Catholic Church of China, which forbids fidelity to Rome.
China's leaders, evidently fearful that true freedom of religion would increase pressure for political freedom and threaten the Communist Party's monopoly on power, have cracked down on any of the groups whose organization has grown too large. Falun Gong, which at its peak said it had tens of millions of followers, became a prime target of the crackdown after 10,000 adherents gathered outside the government's leadership compound in Beijing in April 1999.
An ensuing propaganda campaign, together with widespread arrests and pressure from employers, stopped the movement's rapid growth and even shrank its numbers. But it also hardened a core of believers in China, won the movement international support and galvanized adherents abroad.
The group has grown increasingly sophisticated in its challenge to China's government and its efforts to gather followers outside China. Its public face, for example, presented through Web sites, press releases and radio broadcasts, has been represented as a middle-class spiritual movement and human rights cause rather than a mystical movement from China.
Web sites with "falun dafa" or "falun gong" in the Internet addresses now carry photographs of middle- class Westerners performing the movement's exercises instead of the spinning swastikas and portrait of Mr. Li that they carried earlier this year.
Mr. Li's writings on alien invasions, levitation, mankind's destruction and the evils of racial intermarriage, meanwhile, have been moved to other Web sites that nonbelievers are less likely to stumble across. One of those sites carries Mr. Li's latest comments, in which he criticizes followers who are afraid to confront China's police.
BEIJING - Police beat and dragged away hundreds of Falun Gong followers who emerged from crowds to chant and unfurl banners during China's National Day celebrations in a protest that forced the brief closure of much of Tiananmen Square.
The banned sect's protest in Beijing's main square, one of its biggest acts of civil disobedience, was an embarrassment to Chinese leaders, showing that the meditation group remains unbowed despite a brutal 14-month crackdown.
In the morning, small groups of Falun Gong sect members seemed to materialize suddenly from among the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists who gathered on the square to mark the 51st anniversary of communist rule.
In seconds, police zeroed in on them, shoving the protesters - mostly middle-aged women - into white minivans. As they were grabbed, some shouted ``Falun Gong is good! Falun Gong is good!'' while others threw sheets of printed paper into the air, which police immediately scooped up.
Police were seen beating most of the roughly 350 members of Falun Gong who were detained throughout the day. Most of the arrests came during the large morning protest that ended with police briefly closing more than half of Tiananmen, the square where Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.
Thousands of Falun Gong followers have been arrested since Chinese leaders outlawed the group, calling it a threat to communist rule and as a public menace that cheated members and caused 1,500 deaths.
Falun Gong says it seeks no political objectives, just the right to practice free of harassment. Members maintain the group's beliefs - an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese exercise, Taoist and Buddhist cosmology and the teachings of founder Li Hongzhi - promote health and morality.
In the morning protest, sect followers chanted slogans or raised yellow banners. A few began the group's characteristic meditative exercises in front of the pole where just a few hours before a military color guard had raised the country's red flag in a nationally televised ceremony.
They appeared up to a dozen at a time, and just as police subdued one group another would emerge from the crowd. Punching and kicking many, police forced protester into minivans, packing them so tightly the doors would not shut.
One middle-aged woman, blood running from her mouth, escaped a clutch of officers who grabbed her again, slapping her head and pulling her into a van.
As police cleared the square, a woman sprinted across the open space until police kicked her legs out from under her. Once on the paving stones, plainclothes police kicked her.
A few onlookers applauded as police carried her away. But the violence stunned most of the Chinese tourists - young children, families, businessmen in suits - admiring the floral displays set up in the square for National Day. Some were knocked to the ground as officers chased sect members.
Sporadic protests continued in the evening.
China's state-run media ran only a brief statement on the evening news that condemned a ``small number'' of Falun Gong for ``illegally assembling and intentionally disrupting order on Tiananmen Square.''
Falun Gong, in a letter recently posted on the group's U.S. Web site, had warned of protests if police persisted in detaining followers ahead of National Day. The American-based activist said as many as 10,000 followers from around China headed to Beijing for protests.
Girding for trouble, police searched vehicles and trains entering Beijing. Nearby provinces detained 600 followers over the past two weeks to prevent them from streaming into the capital, said the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a Hong Kong-based group.
The security actions appeared to head off the group's initial plans for a large-scale protest during the dawn flag-raising on Tiananmen Square - a centerpiece of the holiday.
Some 200,000 spectators mixed with police in new, blue uniforms and plainclothes agents. Military police by the hundreds ringed the edges of the square and hundreds more waited in underground walkways for the flag-raising.
BEIJING - The Falun Gong spiritual group on Sunday held a massive protest rally in a packed Tiananmen Square, its largest-ever in the square since it was banned in July last year, with some 1,000 practitioners detained as China celebrated its National Day.
Despite the presence of large numbers of both uniformed and plainclothes police officers, practitioners managed to enter the square by mingling with tourists on the first day of weeklong celebrations of the 51st anniversary of Communist rule.
Law enforcement authorities shut down part of the square after rounding up practitioners, some of whom witnesses said were assaulted by police.
In early September, about 2,000 Falun Gong members marched to the U.N. headquarters building in New York to demand the Chinese government officially recognize their sect and release members from prison.
They said about 50 of the some 10,000 practitioners arrested in China have died from mistreatment while in prison.
Falun Gong is a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and folk religions and preaches that good health and morality can be attained through meditation and special exercises.
In April last year, about 10,000 followers staged a peaceful protest in Beijing, demanding official recognition. Beijing launched a large-scale crackdown on the group three months later.
BEIJING - Hundreds of followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement marked China's National Day celebrations on Sunday with huge protests in a packed Tiananmen Square, witnesses said.
Police detained several hundred Falun Gong members, kicking, punching and pulling them by the hair as they herded them onto buses after protests broke out all round the vast plaza crammed with foreign and Chinese tourists, they said.
The defiant protests on the 51st anniversary of Communist rule highlight Beijing's failure to stamp out the group, which has set an alarming precedent with its relentless campaign of civil disobedience since it was banned last year.
One group unfurled a red banner saying ``Falun Gong is good'' below a huge portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong looking over the square, but plainclothes officers soon wrestled them away.
Others among the largely elderly or middle-aged protesters assumed the lotus position or formed human chains, and many waved and signalled to puzzled onlookers as they were whisked off to a police station nearby.
After more than an hour of protests, police completely cleared the square for about thirty minutes before allowing tourists to pour back in limited numbers.
But smaller disturbances continued throughout the day and police were still rounding up protesters at dusk, witnesses said.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that police had taken away ``some stubborn Falun Gong cult followers'' for illegally distrubing public order on the square.
The protesters ``aimed to dampen the harmonious atmosphere of the National Day celebrations there,'' Xinhua said.
There were no reports of protests elsewhere in Beijing as millions of Chinese mobbed shops and tourist spots on the first day of the week-long National Day holiday.
But in Hong Kong, some 200 Falun Gong practitioners protested against Beijing's ``brutal suppression'' of the spiritual movement.
Security around Beijing has been tight ahead of the October 1 anniversary -- one of many ``sensitive dates'' in China when those with gripes against the government try to stage public protests, often on Tiananmen Square, the nation's political heart.
But Falun Gong members have defied the heavy police presence with similar protests almost daily since the government banned the group in July last year and branded it an ``evil cult.''
Next month will bring the first anniversary of China's parliament rubber-stamping a draconian law against cults, which paved the way for tough sentences on Falun Gong leaders.
Beijing says it has jailed about 150 organisers of the spiritual group, which it accuses of causing 1,500 deaths and 600 cases of mental illness.
Falun Gong says thousands of adherents are in labour camps without trial, and a Hong Kong-based human rights group says at least 52 adherents have died in government custody since the ban.
In the most recent reported case, a Chinese policeman who was also a Falun Gong follower died in a labour camp in northern Hebei province, a Hong Kong-based rights group said last week.
THORN IN THE SIDE
Falun Gong has now become a major thorn in Beijing's side, winning sympathy from other religious groups and dissidents and adding fuel to Western criticism of its human rights record, especially on freedom of religion.
State media have also voiced alarm at the notion of democracy activists and ethnic separatists in the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang copying Falun Gong's campaign of peaceful protests.
This month, exiled poet Huang Beiling called on China's intellectuals to follow the example of Falun Gong meditators by fighting government oppression with civil disobedience.
China said on Thursday Falun Gong was scheming with ``Western anti-China forces'' including Tibetans, Taiwanese and exiled dissidents bent on toppling the government.
Falun Gong, which combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine rooted loosely in Buddhist and Taoist teachings, first rattled the ruling Communist Party with an unexpected 10,000-strong protest in Beijing in April 1999.
What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
FALUN GONG UPDATES
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