Protest toned down on police orders
By VERONA BURGESS
Falun Gong practitioners stood firm yesterday in their usual place opposite the Chinese Embassy in Yarralumla but without banners or amplifier. The group remained resolute in its determination to keep protesting against the Chinese Government's persecution of the movement in China.
The nine-month public vigil received a setback on Saturday when the Federal Government intervened, against the wishes of the ACT Government, by sending the Australian Federal Police to warn off the protesters.
Falun Gong spokesman Lee Cheezong said yesterday the police had told them they must not use their banners or amplifier.
''The practitioners had two choices: either they take the banners down or they would be arrested if they refused.''
He said they assumed the federal intervention, made by instrument by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, was a result of pressure from the Chinese Government because of an impending visit from the Chinese Foreign Minister.
''We were here for nine months and the Australian Government said nothing. . . We'll try everything to get our banner back up.''
Some practitioners had received threatening phone calls last month from operatives of the Chinese security department, telling them to stop protesting in Canberra.
''They said, 'You've created a lot of difficulties for us. If you don't stop Falun Gong activities you will be in trouble'.''
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said on Saturday he was appalled by the Commonwealth's intervention, which had only happened against the wishes of the ACT Government once before, in 1991.
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