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Zek, a British follower of Falungong
"Members have been arrested"
 real 28k

Saturday, 5 February, 2000, 11:29 GMT
Falun Gong arrests in Tiananmen Square

police Police often patrol the Square looking for Falun Gong members


At least 50 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have been arrested during their largest display of defiance in recent months in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Scores of police rushed at the protesters, kicking and punching them as they unfurled banners just minutes before celebrations for the Chinese new year began at midnight on Friday.


police Police question Falun Gong members
Altogether, thousands of Falun Gong members have been arrested and several of its leaders sentenced to long prison terms as part of a crackdown on the movement by the Chinese Government.

Banners unfurled

Friday's demonstration appears to have been timed to coincide with the start of the Chinese new year. Eyewitnesses said dozens of Falun Gong members marched into Tiananmen Square moments before celebrations began and unfurled red banners.



They told us you can't take pictures of those people exercising
US Tourist
Police reacted immediately, kicking and punching the protesters and dragging them away to nearby vans.

A US tour party said a policeman told them "You can take any pictures that you want, even the soldiers, but you can't take pictures of those people exercising."

Police reinforcements moved in and the whole area was closed for the rest of the night.

Hannah Li, a Falun Gong member, said she had been telephoned by a friend who was with many others being taken to Beijing's Xiao Tangshan detention centre.


Falun Gong Sect
Believe in daily exercise
Preach Buddhist and Taoist Maxims
Advocate Clean and healthy living
Frank Lu, head of the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said he had been informed that at least 300 followers had been rounded up Friday and early Saturday.

The protest appeared to be the biggest by the Falun Gong since mid-October when thousands were rounded up for protesting at their treatment.

Crackdown

Sporadic protests by the group have been staged ever since the government declared Falun Gong an illegal cult last summer, and began a widespread effort to stamp out its activities and arrest its leaders.

The group says its activities, which consist mainly of meditation and breathing exercises, are peaceful and legal.

The government's crackdown on the group has brought international condemnation.

But the Chinese Government views Falun Gong as a direct challenge to its own authority.

It thinks the sect is the biggest threat to its political power since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.

Falun Gong, led by exiled guru Li Hongzhi, preaches Buddhist and Taoist maxims and advocates clean and healthy living.

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See also:
29 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Sect members held over Mao protest
04 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Huge exodus for new year
04 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
In Pictures: Preparing for the dragon year

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