AP: China expels Germans, Britons after Falun Gong protest

BEIJING (AP) -- China has expelled five Germans and four Britons detained during a Tiananmen Square protest by foreign members of the banned Falun Gong group, diplomats said Friday.

Chinese police said more than 40 foreigners were detained during Thursday's protest in central Beijing, making it the square's biggest foreign protest yet against a 2½-year-old Chinese crackdown on Falun Gong.


A German Embassy spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said five Germans left Friday aboard a Lufthansa flight, while the status of two other detained Germans was unknown.

Four Britons were put on a flight home within hours, said Alex Pinfield, a British Embassy spokesman.

The nationalities and status of other detainees wasn't immediately known.

The protest came a week before President Bush visits Beijing. Possibly seeking to avoid a diplomatic backlash, Chinese authorities took the unusual step of saying they treated the detainees humanely.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was investigating whether Americans were being held and, if they were, would ask for consular access to them. A New York City
man was detained Monday while protesting on the square and then expelled a day later.

[..].


Thousands of members have been detained, and activists abroad say 358 members have been killed. [..]

A friend of a Japanese Falun Gong member said in Tokyo that the member called Thursday to say he was going to participate in the protest.

Takehiko Kanai, 30, said he was going to "appeal ... for an end to the oppression of Falun Gong," said his friend, Zhuang Jinzhong. He said Kanai hadn't called back as planned Thursday evening, suggesting he was in police custody.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said Chinese authorities hadn't responded to a request for information.

Falun Gong activists in New York said as many as 100 followers planned to protest. They said 14 Europeans were detained in their hotel rooms before the protest.


The activists said protesters tried to unfurl a banner and shout protest slogans.

In contrast to previous protests, many of which took police by surprise, authorities appeared to be prepared for Thursday's event.

Checkpoints were set up around Tiananmen Square and foreigners were forced to show identification and open their bags for inspection. Foreign reporters were turned away or held near the square, preventing them from seeing clearly what happened.

In November, 35 Western members of Falun Gong were expelled after a mass protest on the square.

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