Thirty-five foreigners have been ordered to leave China after police arrested them for performing Falun Gong rituals in Tiananmen Square. The foreigners apparently came from several western nations, including Sweden and Germany.
An eyewitness says the Falun Gong practitioners, posing as tourists, lined up for a group photo in the large square in the heart of Beijing.
Suddenly, at least one of them reached under clothing and pulled out the distinctive yellow banners Falun Gong supporters often display. One banner read "Truth, compassion, forbearance" in Chinese and English.
Within seconds, police on foot and in buses surrounded the group and hauled the protesters away in vehicles.
One man scurried around briefly, carrying a banner and shouting Falun Gong slogans, before being caught by officers.
Chinese officials began a crackdown on the spiritual movement two-and-a-half years ago. Falun Gong supporters accuse the government of arresting thousands of members, torturing many of them and causing the deaths of about 300. In recent months, the near-daily ritual of Falun Gong demonstrations in Tiananmen has almost disappeared.
Zhang Qiyue, speaking for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, says the government banned the group to protect its citizens. She says the Falun Gong group is "against human beings" and "against science." She says Falun Gong is responsible for the deaths of 1,700 followers.
The government has accused the group of urging members to forgo medicine in favor of meditation, causing deaths that might have been prevented.