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Monday, 1 January, 2001, 08:29 GMT
Police break up Falun Gong demo
Chinese plainclothes police detain a man at a 1999 Falun Gong demo
China deploys plainclothes police in advance of protests
Police in Beijing have broken up a demonstration by hundreds of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, arresting dozens of people.

Reports from Beijing say the police action was violent and included some severe beatings.

Falun Gong member
Many followers are middle-aged women
Many of the protesters were middle-aged women, meditating or trying to display the movement's distinctive yellow banners.

The movement, which has been banned since July 1999, regularly stages demonstrations in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square on public holidays.

It has been responsible for the largest public demonstrations since the government crushed the pro-democracy protest at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Dozens killed

The Falun Gong's website says more than 100 of its members have been killed since the government started taking action against the movement in April 1999.

A Hong Kong-based human rights organisation estimates that at least 74 Falun Gong members have died in police custody.

Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong founder
The group's founder fled China for the US
The Chinese Government describes the Falun Gong as an "evil cult organisation".

It acknowledges that some members have died in custody, but says most of the deaths were due to suicide or pre-existing conditions.

The movement, loosely based on Taoist and Buddist doctrine, teaches meditation and exercise. It is also known as Falun Dafa.

Its founder, Li Hongzhi, fled China and now lives in the US.

Singapore protest

In a separate incident, police in Singapore broke up a Falun Gong demonstration on 31 December, the Associated Press reported.

The demonstration in the small, tightly-controlled country was held in support of members in China.

The Falun Gong is not banned in Singapore, but demonstrations are rare and any public gathering requires a permit.

It is not clear whether the Falun Gong had obtained a permit for their protest.

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See also:

13 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong member dies after beating
21 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
UN-China rift on human rights
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese 'cult busters' set up
27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
New Falun Gong protest broken up
27 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
US warns China over Falun Gong trials
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