November 20, 2001

BEIJING, Nov 20, 2001 -- (dpa) Chinese police on Tuesday arrested 33 foreign Falun Gong practitioners who staged a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The protesters posed Tuesday afternoon for several group photographs before unfurling a yellow banner supporting the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned and subject to a harsh crackdown in China.

The banner carried the Falun Gong motto "Truth, Benevolence, Forbearance" in English and Chinese.

The protesters also carried a wreath of white flowers, a traditional Chinese symbol of mourning, in apparent reference to the 300 Falun Gong followers the group says have died in Chinese police custody.

At least four police minibuses and other vehicles raced towards the group, and all its members were detained within about five minutes.

One protester ran across the square carrying part of the banner.

"The world knows that Falun Gong is good. Canada knows, Europe knows," he shouted before a plain clothes police officer rugby tackled him.

There was some jostling as uniformed and plain clothes police surrounded the group, but no sign of any violence.

Some protesters who resisted arrest were carried to police vans.

"It was a little rough," one Swiss protester said by mobile phone from a police station which he said was 2-3 minutes by car from the square.

The entire group was held at the same police station, he said.

The group included eight members from Germany, four from Switzerland, and others from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Australia.

It issued an earlier statement saying the protest was against China's harsh treatment of Falun Gong practitioners.

The German embassy said police had also detained a German journalist who was watching the protest.

China banned Falun Gong and labeled it an "[Jiang Zemin government's slanderous term omitted]", after a peaceful protest in April 1999 by some 10,000 members outside the leadership complex used by the country's Communist rulers.

Earlier this month United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said she was worried by reports of worsening treatment of Falun Gong members.

China's fight against Falun Gong "has probably retarded progress in some areas of freedom of expression and freedom of association", Robinson said.

She said she had raised with Chinese leaders allegations that detained Falun Gong members were "suffering widespread violations of their human rights", including the alleged exposure of women members to sexual abuse.