Croatia: Peaceful Protest to Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong during Hu Jintao's Visit

On June 19 and 20, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao and 200 businessmen from China visited Zagreb, Croatia and had official talks with the Croatian President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament.

Prior to the visit, Croatian Falun Gong practitioners sent an open letter to the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, in which they exposed the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong and asked the three dignitaries to support the Falun Gong practitioners. They also informed major media outlets about the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong and about the local practitioners' peaceful activities calling for an end of the brutal persecution during Hu's visit.

On Friday June 19, the day of Hu Jintao's arrival, practitioners from Croatia and neighbouring countries Austria and Germany gathered on Zagreb's main square, handed out flyers and demonstrated the exercises. This peaceful gathering drew a lot of media attention. Most of the journalists and passers-by had never heard about Falun Gong and were shocked to see the images of practitioners being tortured in China. The question on everyone's lips was, "Why are these people tortured?"

That same evening after the gathering on the square, the practitioners moved to the Chinese embassy in Zagreb, where they held a sit-in protest for two hours with banners that read "Stop the persecution of Falun Gong in China".

Media coverage on the protests during Hu's visit

On Saturday June 20, the practitioners held a peaceful protest in front of the Croatian National Theatre from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Many people stopped to read the banners and took flyers or newspapers with them. In a couple of these buses were some Chinese faces, curiously looking at what was going on, and quickly taking photos. Unlike the day before when the weather was sunny and the temperature reached over 30 degrees Celsius, the sky turned grey, it was 18 degrees Celsius and raining. The police on duty were surprised that the practitioners continued holding the event and did not leave. Some of the police officers took flyers and newspapers, and some read the posters and banners, but all said that they had never heard of Falun Gong and that they were shocked by what they found.

Whenever Hu Jintao and the rest of the delegation were to drive past the gathering venue, 6 or 7 vacant buses were parked to block the view in order for them not to see the banners and practitioners. The practitioners then turned and held banners up high for the delegation to see them but the police officers formed a line so as to make sure that the practitioners remained unseen. The banners were held up high and one practitioner asked the police, "Why are you doing this?"

The second time the delegation passed by, the police again formed a line, but one police officer did not want to join in.

When it was clear that Hu Jintao had left the city, the police officers came to talk to the practitioners and asked more about the persecution. One said, "You asked whether I support what they are doing. I am just doing my job. What they are doing is horrible, I didn't know." They also said that they had never seen a more peaceful protest and that the practitioners were welcome to hold activities in Zagreb in the future.

In addition to being in front of the Croatian National Theatre, a number of practitioners held a mini-parade through a few streets of Zagreb, holding banners and handing out flyers. During this mini-parade, they were approached by American tourists who asked what was going on and took flyers.

At around 7 p.m., most of the police officers left the site, and only one police car remained. The practitioners in the meantime found out that just at 8 p.m. in the very theatre in front of which they held the activities, a performance by Chinese acrobats from Dalian was to be held. They held up yellow banners that read "Falun Dafa" in the direction of the performers who were standing outside, near the side entrance. The performers were looking in the direction of the banners with great interest. The practitioners used this opportunity to hand out more flyers to the people who were about to watch the show.

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