February 12, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - Undeterred by their exclusion from the city's annual Chinese New Year Parade, members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong banged drums and cymbals and performed traditional meditation exercises on Saturday in the sidewalks near the parade's main route.

"We are peacefully trying to deliver the message that there shouldn't be any discrimination and they shouldn't extend discrimination from China," said Sherry Zhang, 35, a Falun Gong organizer.

The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which has directed the parade for nearly 50 years, excluded Falun Gong from this year's parade, [due to the chamber's connection to China. Falun Gong is brutally persecuted in China].

Police eventually agreed to allow roughly 100 Falun Gong members to hold banners and organize on the sidewalk on the parade route, but Falun Gong members said Saturday they weren't allowed into the Chinatown district, the site of most of the New Year's revelry.

Falun Gong members wore yellow and red jumpsuits often worn for mediation and exercise, and some held lanterns decorated with flowers and dressed in traditional Chinese garb from the Tang Dynasty, nearly 1,000 year ago.

Several passers-by apologized for the group's exclusion from the parade and shouted encouragement.

"We're taking every opportunity we can to present the best of Chinese culture to the whole world," said Falun Gong member Joel Ng, 42, of San Leandro.


Falun Gong [follows the principle Truth, Compassion, Tolerance] with meditation and exercises that adherents say lead to improved health and well-being. Beijing banned the group in 1999 following a major [petition to National Appeal Office] outside the main government compound. Thousands of followers were detained and imprisoned.