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BBC's Duncan Hewitt
Falun Gong had quietly drawn tens of millions of followers, many middle-aged or elderly
 real 28k

The BBC's Adam Brooks in Beijing
"Members of Falun Gong have offered themselves up for arrest"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Falun Gong mass arrest
Chinese police
Police arrest another suspected Falun Gong member
About 100 followers of the Chinese spiritual movement, the Falun Gong, are reported to have been arrested in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, on the first anniversary of a big demonstration there which led to the movement being outlawed.

Groups of followers mingled with tourists, evading a massive security operation before sitting on the ground to observe rituals such as meditation.


Policeman stops demonstrators
A plainclothes policeman approaches protesters
They were soon taken away in police vans. Some journalists were also briefly detained.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing says the rituals and the arrests have become an almost daily routine. However, the authorities had sought to avoid any public protests by Falun Gong followers on the anniversary.

The government sees the movement, which has millions of adherents, as a serious political challenge.

Protests

Human rights groups say thousands of its supporters have been detained.

Peaceful, defiant protests by Falun Gong adherents have been a daily sight in the square since the government banned the movement nine months ago.

The government says it is a dangerous cult, but Falun Gong followers argue that it is simply a peaceful, spiritual movement.

They have appealed to be allowed to practise their faith, a mix of traditional beliefs, Buddhism and Taoism as well as slow-motion exercises and meditation.

Increased surveillance

Surveillance of those known to be members of the movement - said to have tens of millions of followers - has increased in recent days.

Last week, about 100 protestors - many of whom were middle-aged women - were kicked and punched before being arrested in Tianamen Square.



We have come to witness the Chinese government execute one of the largest, harshest and most arbitrary persecutions in modern history

Falun Gong
It is not clear whether Falun Gong has planned a major protest to mark the anniversary of last year's demonstration.

On that occasion, 10,000 followers silently meditated for a day in Tianamen Square to protest against official harassment.

The demonstration shocked the authorities and led to a fierce crackdown on the movement.

Falun Gong says 35,000 of its 70 to 100 million followers have been arrested since July.


Falun Gong exercises
Members regularly appear in Tiananmen Square
"In the one year since that gathering, we have come to witness the Chinese government execute one of the largest, harshest and most arbitrary persecutions in modern history," said Gail Rachlin, a New York-based spokeswoman for Falun Gong.

The group said 5,000 members were sent without trial to labour camps, while others had been tortured, held in psychiatric institutions and forcibly given anti-psychotic drugs.

Some had also lost their jobs or been refused permission to attend school.

Officials have also made intensive efforts to root out members from state organisations, schools and factories.

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See also:

21 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
China's perplexing crackdown
22 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
The complex Web of Falun Gong
29 Jul 99 | Monitoring
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19 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
China 'detains' sect members
22 Jul 99 | Monitoring
Text of notice banning sect
18 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China escapes UN censure
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