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China Rejects Claims of Harsh Treatment of Falun Gong - 2001-11-22

China is rejecting complaints from some foreign followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement that they were mistreated while in detention. Some of the 35 Westerners say they were roughed up when they were detained Tuesday. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhang Qiyue says that authorities treated the Falun Gong followers with what she calls "humanity and fairness."

Ms. Zhang said at news conference in Beijing Thursday that the 35 foreigners violated Chinese laws on assembly, protests and cults when they demonstrated in Tiananmen Square. She denies that security officials acted improperly against the foreigners.

Ms. Zhang says that China strictly abided by regulations in dealing with the foreigners, and that all those detained left the country Wednesday. She says she hopes the embassies concerned will urge their citizens to follow Chinese laws while visiting the country.

Protesters from the banned movement included Swedes, Australians, Americans, Canadians and citizens of other Western countries.

Earlier Thursday, Sweden complained to China's Foreign Ministry that the detained Swedes were not given access to Swedish officials according to international practice. A Swedish consular official says the embassy also protested what appeared to be harsh physical treatment of those detained.

Australian and Canadian Falun Gong members said Thursday they were mistreated while in detention. One of the Australians reportedly was punched and kicked by Chinese police.

The Chinese government says the Falun Gong is an evil cult that disturbs social order, and has caused more than 1,600 deaths among its followers. Falun Gong says that some 300 of its followers have died in Chinese jails or labor camps.