Thursday, Jan. 24, 2002

BEIJING (AP-CP) -- A Canadian follower of Falun Gong was expelled from China on Thursday after being detained for protesting on Tiananmen Square in Beijing against the country's ban on the spiritual group, a Canadian diplomat said.

Connie Chipkar, 61, of Mississauga, Ont., left aboard a British Airways flight for London, said Charles Reeves, spokesman for the Canadian Embassy.

Chipkar, a former teacher from Welland, Ont., was detained Wednesday after she sang and held out her arms on Tiananmen Square. She was wearing a sash that read "Falun Gong" and "SOS."

The protest lasted only a few minutes before she was quietly led away.

The square is the symbolic political heart of China and the site of frequent protests by Falun Gong supporters. Chipkar's son, Joel, took part in a demonstration there in November by 35 western followers of the group. He filmed the arrest of Zenon Dolnyckyj, 23, of Toronto, and the others. They were also expelled.

Even before he was contacted Wednesday by federal officials, Joel suspected his mother had been arrested when she failed to call as scheduled Tuesday evening. á"There are very few who do it and walk away," he said in Canada.

He said his mother arrived in China on Tuesday with the goal of telling Chinese citizens that their government was lying to them about the spiritual movement that is practised around the world. áChipkar was held overnight at a Beijing hotel but wasn't arrested, Reeves said. He said Chinese officials described her expulsion by saying they had "shortened her stay."

[...] áPolice have detained thousands of Chinese followers of Falun Gong during protests on Tiananmen Square against the ban, often beating and kicking them. áFalun Gong accuses Chinese authorities of torturing and mistreating detainees. It says 350 have been killed, 500 sentenced to prison, more than 1,000 sent to mental hospitals and 20,000 detained in labour camps.

áReeves said he didn't know of any penalty imposed on Connie Chipkar. The westerners expelled after the November demonstration said they had been banned from visiting China for five years.


Most protests against the ban on Falun Gong have been by Chinese members, but there have been scattered protests in recent months by foreign supporters. áChipkar was the fourth Canadian citizen to be arrested for protests in the Chinese capital. Lin Shenli, a Canadian of Chinese origin, was slated to be released Wednesday from a labour camp after being sentenced in May 2001.

Prof. Kulin Zhang, also a Canadian citizen of Chinese origin, was arrested and sentenced to three years in a labour camp in 2000. He was deported a year ago. áJoel Chipkar, also a follower of Falun Gong for the past three years, said that his mother turned to Falun Gong in 1998 after years of depression over the death of another son from leukemia.

á"When she started to practise Falun Gong, I saw her face just lift and she became very, very peaceful and compassionate," he said.áá