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Beijing arrests Swiss Falun Gong supporters

Falun Gong supporters demonstrated in Bern in April Keystone Archive

Police in Beijing have arrested more than two dozen foreign members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, including three Swiss.

A group of foreign sect members were demonstrating in Tiananmen Square against alleged oppression by Chinese authorities. Police stepped in as they chanted slogans and unfurled banners in support of the banned sect.

Chinese state media reported that 35 foreigners had been detained for displaying a banner of the “notorious cult, Falun Gong.” Police said “their behaviour violated relevant Chinese laws governing parade and demonstration and cults,” Xinhua news agency reported.

Three Swiss and a Spaniard who resided in Switzerland were taken into custody.

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.

Embassy in contact

The Swiss embassy in Beijing confirmed the arrests. “We are in contact with the Chinese authorities,” said Ambassador Marianne Gramm. “But the information we have is not very complete.”

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 Chinese deputy Prime Minister, Li Lanqing, has been quoted as saying that the decision to grant China the games was a sign that the international community approved of the crackdown against Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, as it also known.

“Since he said that, we’ve noticed that they’ve started executing Falun Gong practitioners in groups, and that the methods of torture and execution have become worse,” said a Geneva-based Falun Gong member, Lee Kye Ja.

Falun Gong claims that more than 50,000 of its practitioners have been arrested since the Chinese crackdown began two years ago. Of that number, 263 of them 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 its members in China were “brothers and sisters of the Chinese” and that the government had no interest in persecuting its own citizens.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR