Expelled Falun Gong supporters return home

Chinese police moved swiftly to arrest the Western demonstrators Keystone

Three Swiss Falun Gong supporters arrived home on Wednesday, a day after their arrest in Beijing.

This content was published on November 22, 2001 - 08:01

Around 14 of 35 Western followers of the banned spiritual cult were put on planes and flown back to Europe on Wednesday. Police detained the group when they demonstrated in Tiananmen Square against alleged oppression by Chinese authorities.

Along with the three Swiss, a Swiss-based Spaniard and eight Germans boarded an Air China flight bound for Frankfurt, said Tilo Klinner, a diplomatic spokesman in Beijing. Two French nationals left China on another flight.

The Swiss foreign ministry said the demonstrators were all in good health after their arrest.

On Tuesday, police stepped in to arrest the group as they chanted slogans and unfurled banners in support of the outlawed sect. The foreigners were accused of breaking Chinese law and were ordered to leave the country.

Besides Switzerland, those arrested came from France, Germany, Israel, Britain, Sweden, the United States and Canada, a Falun Gong statement said. There are an estimated 500 Falun Gong members in Switzerland.

The Swiss embassy was not told of the arrests, and were only informed by the Chinese when the expulsion measure took effect. The Falun Gong members were not allowed, as is their right, to speak to representatives of their countries.

Olympics venue

Falun Gong has accused the Chinese government of stepping up repressive measures against the movement since Beijing was named as the venue for the 2008 Olympic Games last month.

The movement claims that more than 50,000 of its practitioners have been arrested since the Chinese crackdown began two years ago. Of that number, 263 have been killed. Thousands have been sent to forced labour camps and psychiatric hospitals, according to the sect.

Sun Congben, press attaché at the Chinese embassy in Switzerland dismissed Falun Gong's allegations, saying the government had no interest in persecuting its own citizens.

swissinfo with agencies

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