Caption: Police quickly restrained the protesters

February 11, 2002 Chinese police have detained one American and one Canadian citizen in Beijing for attempting to demonstrate in support of the banned Falun Gong movement.

In a statement, the two identified themselves as Jason Loftus, a 21-year-old engineering student from Toronto, and Jonathan Browde, 29, who works for a software company in New York.

They said they wanted to protest against an official campaign against the group based on an incident last year when five alleged Falun Gong members set light to themselves in Tiananmen Sqaure.

The two men said the incident, in which the authorities say two people including a 12-year-old girl died, was staged managed to smear the group.

Falun Gong [...] was banned in 1999.

'Rapid deportation' tactics

The two detained men went to Tiananmen Square, began shouting [statements] and unfurled a banner which read: "The Self-Immolation is a Hoax; Falun Gong is Good."

But within seconds police restrained them, took down the banner, forced them into waiting vehicles and drove them off the square.

On previous occasions when foreigners have demonstrated in support of Falun Gong they have been held by police and then rapidly deported, as China appears unwilling to allow such cases to complicate its diplomatic relations.

That may be especially true now as the US President, George W Bush, is due to visit China later this month.

For Chinese citizens the story is rather different.