July 23, 2001 Monday FINAL EDITION

It was a long, hot and tiring walk from Montreal to Ottawa.

But Ying Zhu and Haocheng Zhang say the journey was worth the effort if it helps to publicize the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Looking sunburnt, but cheerful Ms. Zhu and Mr. Zhang joined a protest outside the Chinese Embassy on St. Patrick Street after walking for six days from Montreal.

"Even though it was very hard, it was worth it," said Ms. Zhu, who spent over a month in a Chinese labour camp this spring for practising Falun Gong, a meditation and exercise movement.

Ms. Zhu, a landed immigrant and student at Concordia University, said she was told by Chinese officials at the labour camp that Falun Gong practitioners would be put in mental asylums.

She said they told her the Chinese government could make up reasons to kill people.

"It was not torture physically. But mentally, they didn't miss any chance to do it."

Ms. Zhu said she was released only after signing a paper promising to stop practising Falun Gong.

Yesterday, she said it was difficult to sit across from the Chinese Embassy after what she went through in China.

"I am very upset," she said.

"Not just for myself, but for the Chinese people because most of them have been deceived by the Chinese propaganda. The people believe what the government says. They don't know the truth."

Mr. Zhang, 21, came to Canada from China in 1996. He is now a Canadian citizen and has been practising Falun Gong for three years.

He said he decided to walk with Ms. Zhu to make a "peaceful effort for Falun Gong."

"I am tired, but I am determined," said Mr. Zhang, speaking in French.

"It was hard on the feet. ... We did it for Falun Gong, but also for human rights in China."

During their walk, Mr. Zhang and Ms. Zhu gathered signatures for a petition asking the Canadian government to pressure China to stop the persecution of Falun Gong.

Ms. Zhu said she left a phone message with Prime Minister Jean Chretien. She hopes to present him with a letter today.

The protest across from the Chinese Embassy will continue.

Bill Guan, a Falun Gong practitioner from Montreal, will continue a vigil that was started two weeks ago by Ottawa resident Gerry Smith.

Mr. Guan will spend every day protesting across from the embassy for two weeks. He said he does not know if anyone will take over after that.

Meanwhile yesterday in China, it was the second anniversary of the banning of Falun Gong and police quickly quashed the small, scattered protests.

Eight people were seen being bundled into police vans yesterday morning in Beijing's Tiananmen Square -- far fewer than during many previous protests on key dates associated with the spiritual movement.