Sunday, February 17, 2002
SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE
Falun Gong practitioners in Salt Lake City are condemning the continued persecution of the group in China, including arrests of foreign members in Tiananmen Square
Chinese police arrested and detained last week at least 40 foreigners, including 33 Americans, four Britons and five Germans who were later expelled from the country.
The arrests, just before President Bush's visit to Beijing, was the biggest yet of foreign followers of the group, who sat in the square to meditate and protest against a 2 1/2-year-old crackdown.
Many of the detainees have been sent home, but several embassies were still trying to determine the status of their detained citizens. Beijing police had refused to give the exact number of detainees or their status.
Before he boarded a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit, U.S. detainee Scott Chinn said that some protesters had sustained black eyes and were "beaten pretty badly" after they were arrested.
Similar allegations were made after the second largest Falun Gong protest by foreigners that took place in November in Tiananmen Square.
Adam Leining of Salt Lake City, who took part in the November protest, said at a news conference Friday that police were "very crude and very rough" as they seized followers from their meditative positions.
"This was the first time many of the Chinese police had seen foreign Falun Gong practitioners, and there were a lot of uncertainties about our release," he said.
"People were getting broken noses before the international press picked up on the story, and that's when they started letting us go."
The Chinese government in 1999 banned Falun Gong, a meditation [...] group it formerly lauded. Since then, China has detained thousands of followers.
Falun Gong is practiced by tens of millions around the world.
"We are not a religion or cult, but we are being persecuted for wanting freedom of speech
and freedom of belief in a Communist China," said Sheng Mei, a Falun Gong spokesperson and a
student at the University of Utah.