November 20, 2001

Chinese police today detained over 30 Western followers of the banned Falun Gong group after a demonstration on Tiananmen Square, the group and other sources said.

German embassy spokesman Mr Tilo Klinner said the embassy received several phone calls today from German citizens who said other German nationals were being detained. "We are trying to confirm it ourselves," Mr Klinner said.

A Beijing-based German reporter whose colleague witnessed the incident said 33 foreign Falun Gong members were detained, including eight Germans, five Swedes, four Swiss and at least one citizen from the United States, Canada and Australia.

"They were posing as just a group of tourists taking group photos and were there for several minutes before being arrested," he said.

Plain-clothed and uniformed police grabbed the protesters after they unfurled Falun Gong banners, he said.

A French Falun Gong group sent a statement to AFP saying followers from nine Western countries had organised a demonstration.

The "purely peaceful protest" was made "to make an appeal in the name of the millions of practitioners who have for the past two years faced acts of terrorism from their government without any recourse to appeal," the French Falungong Association said.