The government has barred all Falun Gong members from entering Iceland in an effort to prevent a large demonstration against Chinese President Jiang Zemin when he visits the country later this month, officials said Friday.
Fri Jun 7, 3:15 PM ET
By RICHARD MIDDLETON, Associated Press Writer
REYKAJVIK, Iceland - The government has barred all Falun Gong members from entering Iceland in an effort to prevent a large demonstration against Chinese President Jiang Zemin when he visits the country later this month, officials said Friday.
The government said it is the first time the country has banned members of any movement or international organization from visiting Iceland. The move was taken in an effort to avoid the kind of protest that occurred the last time a top Chinese official visited the country.
In September 2000, a demonstration against China's human rights record was held when Li Peng, then premier, visited Iceland, prompting him to cancel a stop at parliament, and scuffles broke out between police and protesters when they marched to Li's hotel.
Jiang is due to visit Iceland June 12-16.
Chinese officials have long been sensitive to Falun Gong protests in other countries. They banned the group in China in July 1999, calling it a threat to communist rule, and describe it as a [slanderous term omitted]
Falun Gong followers say it is a peaceful meditation movement that builds health and happiness. They say hundreds of followers have died as a result of police abuse and torture during the Chinese crackdown.
In Reykajvik, Ministry of Justice officials announced the Falun Gong ban on Friday, saying hey had been alerted to a large planned protest against Jiang by Interpol and authorities in countries such as the United States.
Hundreds of foreign Falun Gong members were due in Iceland for the protest, and the overnment does not have the resources to control it and maintain public order, said Bjorn Fridfinnsson, a ministry secretary.
Icelandic embassies and consulates around the world have been told to suspend visas for Falun Gong members until June 18, he said. Several members already have had their visa applications turned down in countries such as the United States, Fridfinnsson said. Arrival points around Iceland will be monitored, particularly the international airport at Keflavik on the southwest coast, he said.
"Iceland has about 600-700 policemen, and we are not able to deal with demonstrations if they are more than several hundred," said
The Falun Gong has announced that it intends to demonstrate against the Chinese president while he is visiting Iceland, he said.
"As the president is an honored guest of the Icelandic government, we had to take action to protect him and his entourage while he is here. We know from our resources that Falun Gong is a peaceful movement, but they are confrontational," he said.
Talking with local Falun Gong members, police expect a demonstration during Jiang's visit of several hundred people, even if foreign members of the group are banned from entering the country.
Lillian Staf, a Swedish-born member of Falun Gong who teaches the movement's methods in Iceland, said she intends to be at the planned demonstration in Reykajvik.
"I will probably sit down on the ground and do some Falun Gong exercises," said Staf. "The demonstration is an appeal for the end of persecution in China. It will be a peaceful appeal with no violence."
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