Chinese police stepped up patrols and surveillance of Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, trying to put an end to three days of low-key protests by members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong.
Group members staged no overt demonstration and were not easily distinguished from the hordes of Chinese tourists normally wandering the square.
But their appearance in Tiananmen, China's symbolic political heart, in defiance of a three-month crackdown against Falun Gong assured their arrest.
Police in uniforms and street clothes aggressively questioned likely Falun Gong members, the middle-aged and older men and women who have filled the once widely popular group's ranks. Those who identified themselves as Falun Gong practitioners were quickly placed in police vans that crisscrossed the square.
At least a dozen people, mostly middle-aged and younger men and women, were ordered into the blue-and-white vans and then driven off. Plainclothes officers pushed foreign reporters trying to cover the arrests and told them to leave the square.
It was unclear how many people have been arrested since Falun Gong members began gathering in the vast square Monday. A New York-based spokeswoman for Falun Gong has said police have arrested more than 1,000 adherents since the weekend, and on Tuesday police took at least 36 people from the square. Sparking the renewed confrontation was a weeklong session by the national legislature inside the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square. The legislature's executive committee is expected to pass a proposed law to crackdown on Falun Gong and other groups regarded as cults by the communist government.
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