Beijing, Nov. 21--(AP) China swiftly expelled six Americans and more than two dozen other Westerners who protested in the heart of Beijing against the government's repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. By Wednesday evening--little more than 24 hours after they chanted, sat cross-legged and unveiled a banner on Tiananmen Square--all 35 protesters had been forced to leave the country, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

It said they were treated with "humanitarian concern," contradicting Falun Gong claims that some were slapped and kicked by police. Police told them they broke laws on protest, assembly and cults, Xinhua said. China's government views Falun Gong as a cult.

The demonstrators called for an end to China's often brutal crackdown on Falun Gong. Falun Gong says more than 300 practitioners have died from torture and abuse in custody since China's communist leaders outlawed the movement in July 1999. Thousands of followers have been imprisoned.

Chinese Falun Gong members are regularly detained and often beaten and kicked for demonstrating on Tiananmen Square, the nation's symbolic heart. But Tuesday's protest was the first to involve only Western supporters of the movement. Falun Gong said demonstrators included Australians, Canadians, French, Germans, Irish, Israelis, Swedes, Swiss, Britons and Americans. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said six Americans detained had all been expelled by Wednesday evening. It did not give their names. Seven demonstrators were Swedes, said the Swedish ambassador to China, Kjell Anneling. He said the protest would focus attention on allegations of official brutality against Falun Gong adherents. Sweden, like many European nations, has told Chinese officials their treatment of Falun Gong followers "is not acceptable," Anneling said.

Falun Gong identified one detainee as Zenon Dolnyckyj, of Toronto. A practitioner for 3 years, Falun Gong helped him "turn from a life of drugs and mischief," the group said in a statement.

Falun Gong attracted members in the late 1990s with a combination of slow-motion exercises and beliefs that mixes traditional Chinese thinking with the teachings of its founder, Li Hongzhi. The group used to claim a following in the tens of millions, mostly in but not exclusively in China, where Li used to be a government clerk. He now lives in exile in the United States.

Falun Gong followers believe Li's teachings and Falun Gong meditation promote health, good citizenship and even supernatural powers for accomplished practitioners. China's government accuses Falun Gong of causing more than 1,600 deaths by driving followers insane or encouraging them to substitute meditation for medicine. Officials have imprisoned followers in labor camps and reeducation centers to force them the renounce the group.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad