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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 10:46 GMT
China arrests foreign Falun Gong activists
Falun Gong protest
Two men were expelled after protests on Monday
Chinese police have arrested more than 40 foreign followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement attempting to hold a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The demonstrators unfurled yellow banners and began to shout "Falun Gong is good".

Previous protests by foreigners
11 Feb: Two North Americans arrested and later deported
Jan 2002: One Canadian woman protester expelled
Nov 2001: 35 Westerners expelled after protest
Hundreds of police, stationed in the square in anticipation of such demonstrations, immediately converged upon the protesters and threw them into waiting police vans.

BBC Beijing correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says the protest, the largest ever attempted by foreigners, appears designed to highlight the repression of the Falun Gong inside China ahead of US President George W Bush's visit to Beijing next week.

The AFP news agency reported an eye-witness account of Chinese police mistreating the Falun Gong members as they were taken away.

The incident is the second of its kind this week - two men, an American and a Canadian, were deported after a similar protest on Monday.

Beijing police said in a statement on Thursday: "The trouble caused by these Falun Gong members was intended to prevent the Chinese people from celebrating [the lunar New Year]."

Britons 'deported'

On Wednesday evening a further 14 foreign members of Falun Gong, including four Britons, were arrested at a Beijing hotel.

They are believed to be part of the same group that carried out the Tiananmen Square protest.

The four Britons have already been deported.

A Falun Gong statement named the four Britons as Lee Hall, 21; Earl Rhodes, 36; Rosemary Katzen, 42; and Robert Gibson, 70.

Falun Gong

Falun Gong, which claims millions of followers around the world, says it is a peaceful law-abiding group, following a philosophy and regime of exercises which lead to spiritual enlightenment and improve health.

The most public manifestation of Falun Gong is the practice of a range of slow meditative exercises related to the ancient Chinese art of qigong.

The authorities in China see Falun Gong in a far more sinister light.

They say it is guilty of spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting disturbances and generally jeopardising social stability.

Falun Gong issued a series of statements last year accusing Chinese officials of torturing thousands of their followers and killing hundreds in detention centres and labour camps.

The government says only a handful have died and those were from suicide or natural causes.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes
"The four Britons have already been deported"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Four Britons 'expelled from China'
21 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
China expels Western 'cult' members
31 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong women die in detention
19 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Heavy sentences for Falun Gong members
17 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China jails four for 'suicide protest'
22 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong protest quashed
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong: Living in fear
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