BEIJING (AP) - Chinese police have detained four U.S. citizens and 12 other people during a roundup of members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a rights group reported Monday.
Police detained the 16 Saturday in a sweep of a Beijing residence, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported. The sweep came on the eve of the national legislature's annual session.
Eight of those detained came from the San Francisco Bay area, the center said. It identified the four U.S. citizens as Loretta Sukmei Lam, Jein Shyue, Qian Zhizhen and her 12-year-old son, David Sun. It said four others were Chinese citizens who held residency rights in the United States.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman did not know about the detentions and could not confirm whether Chinese authorities had contacted U.S. diplomats. Under a consular agreement, Chinese authorities are supposed to notify the U.S. government within 48 hours of detaining an American citizen.
Increasingly, followers of Falun Gong outside of China are coming to Beijing to help Chinese protest the communist government's ban on the group.
Falun Gong is an offshoot of traditional meditation and health practices. Followers say practice promotes health and morality and can bestow supernatural powers.
China outlawed Falun Gong last July as a menace to the public and Communist Party rule, claiming the sect deceived people and caused 1,400 deaths. Since the ban, followers have repeatedly converged on Beijing to stage small, peaceful protests.
Police have been stationed at train and bus stations and searched Beijing's neighborhoods in the past week to find sect followers and prevent protests during the 11-day session of the National People's Congress.
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