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35 Falun Gong Supporters Expelled

November 22, 2001|Associated Press

BEIJING — 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 in Tiananmen Square--all 35 protesters had been forced to leave the country, China's official New China 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, the agency 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. The movement says that more than 200 of its practitioners have died from torture and abuse in custody since China's Communist leaders outlawed it in July 1999, but that figure is difficult to verify. Thousands have been sent to labor camps.

Chinese Falun Gong members are regularly detained and often beaten and kicked for demonstrating at Tiananmen Square. 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 the six detained Americans had all been expelled by Wednesday evening. It did not give their names.

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