Falun Gong says American, Canadian followers detained in Beijing

San Jose Mercury News/March 29, 2002

Beijing -- An American and a Canadian follower of Falun Gong have been detained in Beijing, where they came to protest China's ban on the meditation sect, supporters abroad said Friday.

Jason Pomerleau, 25, and Christine Loftus, 22, were detained outside a market Thursday afternoon, the group said in an e-mail sent to reporters. The statement was sent along with a photo of two people identified as Pomerleau and Loftus being taken away by security guards.

Loftus, of Barrie, Ontario, is a student at Brock University in St. Catherine's, Ontario, the statement said. Pomerleau works at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, according to his family.

They were traveling together in China to "raise awareness among the Chinese citizens about the ongoing persecution campaign against Falun Gong,'' the statement said.

Pomerleau's family said he failed to check in with them Thursday as planned.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Beijing police said they did not know of anyone by those names being detained.

The Canadian and American Embassies in Beijing said they had no information about the pair. Canadian Embassy spokeswoman Jennifer May said Loftus' family has asked diplomats for help and the embassy has requested information from Chinese authorities, but "so far to no avail.''

A number of foreign Falun Gong members have been detained in Beijing and deported after staging protests against the ban.

Loftus' twin brother, Jason, was forced to leave China in February after taking part in a protest on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.

Pomerleau's brother Daniel, 20, was deported Wednesday after being picked up while passing out Falun Gong literature.

Daniel Pomerleau, a student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said he was kicked, punched and denied food and water by police.

China outlawed Falun Gong in 1999, calling it an "evil cult'' that leads followers to their deaths by driving them insane or telling them to refuse modern medicine.

The group claims it seeks only to promote good health and moral living with its regime of traditional Chinese exercises, meditation and beliefs based on Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi.

Thousands of Falun Gong members have been detained in China, and the group claims hundreds have been killed by police. Beijing denies abusing Falun Gong followers.

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