14 February, 2002 13:37 GMT LONDON (Reuters) - The four British members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement being deported from China were tourists and had not been involved in any protests, a spokesman for the group has said.
Chinese state media and witnesses said on Thursday that about 40 Western members of Falun Gong, which is banned in China, were detained after a protest at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
But a spokesman for the movement in the UK said the four Britons had been in Beijing as tourists and were arrested and manhandled at their hotel as around 50 police burst into their rooms.
"There is no reason for the police to attack these practitioners who were peacefully travelling through Beijing as tourists," Peter Jauhal said told Reuters. "They have not broken any of China's laws."
"They are on their way home now after they were detained in China," Jauhal said.
He identified them as Lee Hall, 21, an English student at Loughborough University; Earl Rhodes, 36, a BBC cameraman; Rosemary Katzen, 42, a training tutor and Robert Gibson, 70, a retired osteopath.
The Foreign Office confirmed the four had been arrested and said two had already been deported, while the other two were expected to be sent back to Britain shortly.
Falun Gong says more than 1,600 followers have died as a result of abuse in police custody or detention centres while thousands more have been sent to "re-education labour camps."