China has begun expelling three dozen foreigners detained for holding a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in support of the banned Falun Gong movement. The expelled protesters include several Swedes, Australians and Americans.
A Swedish diplomat says most of the detainees from his country boarded a flight for home Wednesday afternoon. Other diplomats say several Americans and four Australians also are on the way home.
They were among 35 foreigners taken into custody Tuesday afternoon in Beijing when they protested China's crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Posing as tourists, Falun Gong practitioners from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and several other western nations gathered in the square that is the political and symbolic heart of China. They unfurled the distinctive yellow Falun Gong banners and chanted the group's slogans. Waiting police quickly hauled them away.
China's government banned Falun Gong two and a half years ago. It calls the group a "dangerous cult" that is "against humanity" and "against science"
The government accuses Falun Gong of misleading people and says the group is responsible for the deaths of about 17-hundred adherents who may have committed suicide or passed up medical treatment in favor of meditation.
Falun Gong in turn blames the Chinese government for three hundred deaths of its followers among the tens of thousands who have been sent to jail or labor camps or mental hospitals.
Falun Gong says it is a peaceful group seeking the right to practice its blend of slow-motion exercise, Taoist and Buddhist beliefs.
China's lengthy crackdown on the Falun Gong has sparked sharp criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups. Some Western political analysts say China might be trying to downplay this latest incident by holding the foreign Falun Gong members only long enough to get them on a plane out of the country.