Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 12:53 GMT

Banner read: Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance
The protesters posed as Western tourists

China has said it will expel 35 foreign followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement after they staged a surprise protest in Tiananmen Square on Tuesday.

The group, including members from Britain, the US, Canada and several European countries, were detained as they sat down in the square chanting slogans.

Witnesses say the group of Westerners arrived posing as tourists, then suddenly unfurled a banner before assuming their trademark meditative position.

A Falun Gong spokeswoman in Paris said they wanted to show the world that Falun Gong practitioners inside China faced what she called acts of terrorism by the Chinese Government.

Uniformed and plain clothes policemen, who routinely patrol the square to prevent Falun Gong protests, were at the scene within 30 seconds.

When the Falun Gong practitioners refused to move, they were picked up and carried to waiting mini-buses before being driven away to a nearby police station.

State media said the foreign protesters were ordered to leave China "within a specified time" after being warned by the police.

Reports did not say when the 35 had to leave the country.

TV denouncement

The BBC Beijing correspondent, Duncan Hewitt, says the protest came as Chinese television broadcast an interview with a leading US-based Falun Gong activist, Teng Chunyan, jailed for three years last year for providing the Western media with information about the movement.

She was shown on television denouncing Falun Gong [...].

The Falun Gong movement has issued a series of statements in recent months accusing Chinese officials of torturing or killing dozens of practitioners in detention centres and labour camps.

Falun Gong supporters recently filed a law suit in New York accusing a Chinese provincial police chief of murder.