Boston-area members of Falun Gong turned out 500 strong yesterday for a march downtown to support fellow followers of the spiritual movement they say are being persecuted in China.
Surrounding the gazebo on Boston Common before the parade, the group gathered serenely against the wind and chilling rain, meditating for the victims of the Chinese government and those who contend that China has harassed them in the United States. The parade route was from Post Office Square to Eliot Norton Park on the edge of Chinatown.
One speaker, Lin Shen Li, discussed his 18 months in a Chinese prison labor camp, where he said he was tortured and his release was repeatedly postponed. Shen was arrested by Chinese police in 1999 for publicly proclaiming his faith in Falun Gong. He now lives in Canada. ''What kind of suffering was it? It was enough to destroy the will of a person,'' Shen said. ''I in no way acknowledge or accept all of the evil things that were done to me and the crimes that continue to be carried out under President Jiang Zemin. Jiang's persecution of Falun Gong is against China's own constitution. It is illegal,'' he said.[ ]
Practitioners of Falun Gong contend that Chinese authorities have tortured to death nearly 400 followers and jailed numerous practitioners who have come from the West to protest. Last month, Tufts University graduate Daniel Pomerleau was arrested outside a marketplace in Beijing where he was demonstrating with a group of Falun Gong followers. Pomerleau, who had been teaching at a university in China, was released after 45 hours in custody. He now lives in Boston.
The practitioners say the Chinese government is harassing them while they are in the United States in an attempt to sabotage the movement. They say Chinese authorities have pressed civic organizations in the Chinatowns of New York and other cities to condemn Falun Gong. The Chinese government, the practitioners say, also has notified companies with business ties to China that they have employees who follow Falun Gong and have named them.
Last month a group of Falun Gong members filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington against the Chinese government and the television station it sponsors, claiming that their civil rights were violated through intimidation and eavesdropping. Among the plaintiffs, from 13 states and Washington, those who own businesses contend that they have lost customers, who allegedly were scared off by Chinese authorities.
Terri Wu, a plaintiff in Maryland who spoke at the demonstration, said Chinese authorities have recorded her conversations with fellow practitioners and played them back on her answering service. ''I was bothered by this and threatened by this,'' she said, as the crowd left the Common for the start of the parade. ''It's unheard of that a foreign institution severely violates the civil rights of people here in the United States.''
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