November 21, 2001

BEIJING (AP-CP) - China has swiftly expelled almost three dozen Westerners - including two Canadians - who protested in the heart of Beijing against the government's repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

By Wednesday evening, little more than 24 hours after they chanted, sat cross-legged and unveiled a banner on Tiananmen Square, all 35 protesters had been forced to leave the country, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

Canadian detainee Zenon Dolnyckyj, 23, of Toronto was headed home Wednesday. During a brief stopover in Vancouver, Dolnyckyj said he was beaten and made to "write statements" during his detention.

"I was beaten in Tiananmen Square. My nose was bleeding and I was punched all over the body and in the head," Dolnyckyj said. "I was dragged into a van. We were detained for over 24 hours. "During that time, many people were also pushed, slapped and kicked and hit and they were trying to get us to write statements."

Cindy Gu, a member of Toronto's Falun Gong community, said Dolnyckyj's mother told her she had been informed her son was to arrive in Toronto late Wednesday night, where he would be greeted by a crowd of family and friends.

"She was concerned about his safety, but she felt that they did not break any laws, so she didn't think anything bad would happen," Gu said of Dolnyckyj's mother.

Fellow Canadian protester Joel Chipkar, also of Toronto, was released early Tuesday and was to be among those welcoming Dolnyckyj home, Gu said.


The demonstrators called for an end to China's often brutal crackdown on Falun Gong. The group says more than 300 practitioners have died from torture and abuse in custody since China's communist leaders outlawed the movement in July 1999. Thousands of followers have been imprisoned.

Chinese Falun Gong members are regularly detained and often beaten and kicked for demonstrating on Tiananmen Square, the country's symbolic heart. But Tuesday's protest was the first to involve only Western supporters of the movement.

Falun Gong said demonstrators also included Australians, French, Germans, Irish, Israelis, Swedes, Swiss, Britons and Americans. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said six Americans detained had all been expelled by Wednesday evening.

Seven demonstrators were Swedes, said the Swedish ambassador to China, Kjell Anneling, noting that the protest would focus attention on allegations of official brutality against Falun Gong adherents. Sweden, like many European countries, has told Chinese officials their treatment of Falun Gong followers "is not acceptable," Anneling said.

[...] Officials have imprisoned followers in labour camps and re-education centres to force them to renounce the group.