Mon Feb 11
By JOE McDONALD
BEIJING (AP) - Chinese police detain American follower of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement Levi Browde of New York after he and Canadian follower Jason Loftus staged a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, February 11, 2002. The two unfurled a yellow banner and shouted slogans including "Falun Gong is good" in Chinese, witnesses said
The two men unfurled a banner on Tiananmen Square in the centre of Beijing and shouted the group's name. Within seconds, police rushed over, tore down the banner and pushed the two men into a nearby van as scores of curious
Chinese tourists watched.
The men identified themselves as Levi Browde, 29, a software expert from New York, and Jason Loftus, 22, an engineering student from Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
Their protest came on the eve of the Chinese New Year — the day in the lunar calendar that five people set themselves on fire on the square last year.
Chinese authorities blamed Falun Gong for that Jan. 23, 2001, suicide attempt and made it the centre of a massive propaganda campaign to discredit the spiritual group. Falun Gong activists abroad deny the people involved were followers and suggest Chinese officials staged the event.
"The Self-Immolation is a Hoax; Falun Dafa is Good," said the banner held up by Browde and Loftus.
They said they were combating a "massive slander campaign" aimed at teaching the public in China and abroad to hate and fear a peaceful group.
"(Chinese President) Jiang Zemin and the people who are carrying out this persecution do represent something evil," Browde said.
Browde said he had been a Falun Gong member for three years and Loftus for 31/2 years.
Browde and Loftus showed reporters a video produced by Falun Gong supporters abroad aimed at debunking the Chinese claims about the group suicide attempt.
"A Staged Incident" is based on footage of the event shown on Chinese state television. It points out what it says are inconsistencies in the official account and questions details of the event.
The video includes a sequence in slow motion apparently showing someone hitting a woman in the group in the head while police put out the fire.
Monday's protest was at least the third in Tiananmen Square by Western followers of Falun Gong.
In November, 35 Westerners were expelled from China after a protest. A Canadian woman who staged a lone protest last month was held overnight and expelled.
China banned Falun Gong in July 1999 …
A relentless crackdown has stripped the group of its public following in China.
Thousands of members were detained, and Falun Gong supporters abroad said 358 of them were killed in captivity. [..]
[Please note that the term "member" use here to describe those who practice Falun Gong is not quite accurate. Falun Gong has no organisation or membership, thus people who practice Falun Gong are simply practitioners, not members - there is nothing to be be a member of. - Clear Harmony Editors]
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