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US Protests Treatment of  American Falun Gong Members - 2002-02-21


The United States lodged a formal protest with China Wednesday over the treatment of U.S. citizens who were among the more than 50 Falun Gong practitioners arrested in a Beijing demonstration last week.

The official protest was lodged by the U.S. embassy in Beijing and it follows a meeting here Tuesday between State Department officials and some of the 37 Americans who were arrested and later expelled from China, after last Thursday's protest in Tiananmen Square.

The Falun Gong members said they were roughed-up by Chinese police during their arrest and brief jailing in China, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. protest dealt with both the treatment of the Americans, and China's refusal to grant them U.S. consular access while in detention.

Mr. Boucher went on to say, "We have submitted a formal protest to Chinese officials regarding our concerns about prompt consular access and allegations of mistreatment of U.S. citizens by Chinese police, and that's an issue that we'll continue to follow up."

The Americans were among nationals from about a dozen countries who unfurled banners in the central square to protest China's crackdown on the Falun Gong. The U.S. citizens were put on two flights out of China, the day after the demonstration - described as the largest even staged by non-Chinese in support of the banned spiritual movement.

The U.S. protest came a day before President Bush's scheduled arrival in Beijing for talks with top Chinese officials. Spokesman Boucher said human rights issues are "always" on the U.S. agenda for presidential visits to China but declined to give details of the matters Mr. Bush intends to raise.