May 26, 2002

TOKYO (AP)--Two Japanese followers of Falun Gong were expelled from China and a third member is believed to have been detained by Chinese authorities, the spiritual movement's Japanese branch said Sunday.

The two Japanese females returned to Japan late Saturday, said Xie Hui, a member of [Falun Gong] in Tokyo. They had been in Beijing with a third follower - a Chinese female, who they fear has been arrested, Xie added.

Since Beijing banned Falun Gong in July 1999 [...] thousands of followers have been detained in frequently brutal crackdowns.

Supporters abroad say at least 400 have been killed. [...]

According to the Kyodo news agency, the group had planned to protest at Tiananmen Square in Beijing Saturday. Kyodo cited a report from the Japanese embassy in Beijing as saying the two Japanese women had been deported.

The report said the Chinese authorities didn't give a reason for the expulsions.