Deported North American Falun Gong Practitioners call for Swift Return of 50+ Detained in Beijing Today
Persecution faced in detention prompts urgent concern for those now detained
NEW YORK, February 14th, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) – Levi Browde, of New York City, and Jason Loftus, of Toronto, issued a statement calling for international support to obtain the immediate release and safe return of over 50 foreign Falun Gong practitioners who were detained in Beijing today, outlining abuses they had faced as an indication of the urgency of the situation.
Over 40 westerners were arrested at around 2:00pm Beijing Time while appealing peacefully in Tiananmen Square for an end to the illegal persecution against Falun Gong, while 14 were dragged from their hotel rooms earlier in the day. Both groups faced unprecedented police violence to foreign practitioners in China. One lady had hair ripped from her head as she was dragged from her hotel room this morning. Reports from foreign media also indicated that practitioners were beaten, stepped on, slapped, cursed and faced other abuses.
Loftus and Browde held a Beijing press conference on Monday to expose the truth behind the self-immolation incident used by Chinese government propaganda to demonize Falun Gong, and also appealed in the Square later that afternoon. “What we revealed this week is that Jiang Zemin is likely behind the murder of his own people in this self-immolation tragedy in Tiananmen Square and he has used this horrific event to turn an entire nation against an innocent group of people. I’m sure this has made him furious,” said Loftus. “We feel the harsh treatment Levi and I faced and the brutality that these 50+ westerners faced today demonstrate this. Its an extremely urgent situation for these people and international support is needed.”
The two North Americans recounted the abuses they had faced by authorities earlier this week. “I was choked and punched repeatedly. One police officer grabbed my hair and through me into a chair while another officer twisted my arm backwards,” said Loftus. “I thought he was going to break his arm,” Browde said who witnessed the assault. The two were each denied food, water and use of a toilet and were not allowed to contact their Embassies or make any phone calls despite numerous requests. They were not told what authorities planned to do with them. “They stole about $3500USD in merchandise from us,” said Levi Browde, “including items that we had not used in either the press conference nor in Tiananmen.” The list of items included two Palm Pilots, a DVD player, a laptop and various computer accessories.
Why go to Tiananmen?
“We went to Tiananmen Square to directly reach the Chinese people in a significant way because many Chinese have been deceived into supporting this crackdown,” said Loftus. “We’re not against China. We went for the people of China because this persecution and the propaganda campaign are serving only one person in this whole country — that’s the president of China, Jiang Zemin.”
Who’s Breaking the law?
The Chinese government has twisted the appeal as an effort to cause trouble and damper Chinese New Year celebrations. “It is the murder of over 1,600 innocent Falun Gong practitioners and the imprisonment of thousands more that is hampering a peaceful China at this time. They are simply blaming the victims,” said Browde. “A China where millions of innocent people are no longer forced to persecute their innocent countrymen is the greatest new years gift for Chinese people.”
Appeal by Westerners Carries Strong Message
“This clearly shows that Falun Gong is not a ‘chinese issue’ alone–it is a world issue and the rest of the world disagrees with the brutal persecution and slander against Falun Gong by Jiang Zemin,” said Browde. “Jiang has been trying to hide his crimes under the guise of ‘internal affairs,’ but this simply is not going to work. We will not stop our peaceful appeals until the persecution of Falun Gong is over.”