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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 August, 2004, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Protest over Chinese Tattoo band
People's Liberation Army
The inclusion of the Chinese is condemned by protesters
A protest against the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China taking part in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been held in the capital.

About 120 human rights activists, members of the Free Tibet Campaign and supporters of the banned Falun Gong religious group took part.

They claim the PLA is responsible for persecution, oppression, torture and killing in China and Tibet.

Tattoo organisers have defended their decision to invite the PLA band.

Turn a blind eye

Brigadier Melville Jameson, chief executive and producer of this year's Tattoo, said they were "100% right" to invite the band.

He described the soldiers as "charming" people who "carry musical degrees not guns".

During Sunday's march, from the Tattoo offices on Market Street and along Princes Street, activists distributed leaflets to passing locals and tourists.

They told of the invasion and illegal annexation of Tibet and the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 in which students demonstrating against corruption were "brutally crushed" by the PLA.

Protesters also claim persecution against practitioners of Falun Gong, described as "a traditional school of self-cultivation based on truthfulness, compassion and tolerance".

John Watson, programme director of Amnesty International Scotland said: "The situation in China is appalling in terms of human rights with thousands of people executed on the back of a legal system that's not working properly and where torture is being used as a means of extracting information from people.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Tattoo organisers said they were "100% right" to invite the band

"The Chinese People's Liberation Army are implicitly involved, it's at the heart of the Chinese system that's bringing this about."

Speaking at a rally in West Princes Street Gardens, Ze Xia, whose cousin was shot dead in Tiananmen Square, said she felt lucky to no longer be living in China.

She said: "Other people in China can't speak out about human rights abuses which are happening in China. The story of my cousin is heartbreaking, but it's important to speak out and tell the truth.

"Dear friends, so far we don't know how many people were killed in that massacre.

Focal point

"I feel really sorry for the PLA soldiers, they are victims of (former president ) Jiang Zemin's crimes because they have been cheated and used against their own will to kill innocent people.

"I believe that the only way we can have the truth of the Tiananmen Square massacre revealed is if we all speak out to expose Jiang Zemin and bring him to justice."

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a focal point of the festival season, begins on 6 August and runs until 28 August.

A record breaking 220,000 are expected attend the Tattoo and more than 500 million people to watch it on television.

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