Dozens arrested as sect rally continues

South China Morning Post, October 27, 1999

Scores of defiant members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement staged a second day of protest in Tiananmen Square yesterday.

Police detained several dozen members who sat quietly in the centre of the Beijing square, a day after the Government accused at least 15 of the movement's leaders of stealing and leaking state secrets on an unprecedented scale.

Most protesters, ordinary middle-aged or elderly citizens, freely admitted to police they were Falun Gong members and were herded peacefully into police vans.

But police scuffled with one man who appeared to start practising Falun Gong exercises.

"Come and get me," shouted the man. Plain-clothes police bundled him into a van already holding 15 others.

The act of civil disobedience was intended to send a message to members of the National People's Congress meeting this week in the Great Hall of the People, next to the square, to consider a proposed law to tighten control over Falun Gong and other groups which the Government considers cults. It was disclosed yesterday that an estimated 10,000 university students face expulsion if they do not quit the movement, which combines Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and breathing exercises.

On Monday, six students at Beijing's Qinghua University received notices that they were suspended for two months because they practised Falun Gong, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

The notices told the students they would be dismissed if they did not correct themselves, the Hong Kong-based centre said. It said it had learned the policy was set by the Education Department and applied across the mainland, where there were an estimated 10,000 university students who practised Falun Gong.

On October 21, police detained 34 members of the sect - including students - who gathered at Qinghua University to discuss experience in practising Falun Gong.

Only 13 had since been released and the status of the rest was unknown. Orders for expelling university students came from the Ministry of Education and was to be implemented nationwide, the centre said.

Falun Gong members in various cities have reportedly been holding demonstrations since the group was banned on July 22 after a mass demonstration outside government headquarters in Beijing.

Fifteen of the group's leaders, including Beijing-based Li Chang, Yao Jie, Wang Zhiwen and Ji Liewu, were being investigated for allegedly leaking state secrets related to the banning of the group, including 20 "top secret" documents, Xinhua reported.

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