NEW YORK, June 12, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) - IcelandAir began screening passengers yesterday (June 11), blocking them from boarding their flights if their names appeared on a list of Falun Gong practitioners provided by the Chinese government. More than 20 people were turned away from their flights to Iceland from Boston and Baltimore when airline personnel found their names on the list.Last night, another 20 passengers from the U.S., at least three from Europe and at least seven from Australia, received calls saying that their tickets to Iceland had been cancelled. Among those notified were American, Australian, Taiwanese and Chinese citizens. Today, dozens of travelers from U.S. and European cities said they, too, were denied entry to flights headed for Iceland because their names were on the airline’s lists.IcelandAir officials in Europe report their orders came directly from Iceland’s Minister of Justice.Riordan Galluccio, a spokesperson for Falun Dafa practitioners in Boston where more than a dozen people were stranded last night when IcelandAir cancelled their air tickets, says: "American, European, and Australian citizens are being pulled off flights because their names are on a ‘blacklist’ that comes from a Communist regime that has committed some of the worst human rights atrocities in recent history. Something is very wrong with this picture."Mr. Galluccio continued, "This situation extends far beyond the borders of Iceland. It is a question of whether western democracies will allow a dictator from Communist China to twist and manipulate the laws of our nations to suit his will. Will we or will we not uphold the principles of freedom that form the bedrock of modern western societies? We are calling on the Iceland government to end the restriction on IcelandAir, and allow Falun Gong practitioners to enter the country."Yesterday, in a letter addressed to the Iceland Ambassador in Washington DC, U.S. Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Chairman Emeritus of the House International Relations Committee, echoed the sentiments of Falun Gong practitioners, calling for an end to the barring of Falun Gong practitioners from traveling to Iceland: "I encourage your government to reverse its prohibition against Falun Gong practitioners from entering your country and permit them to peacefully protest against the repressive action of the government of the People's republic of China. Your nation's reputation as a stout defender of people who seek peace and freedom will be enhanced if it does so."Many Icelanders have also expressed their deep concern regarding this latest step to keep Falun Gong practitioners out of Iceland. "Whether you stop them at the border or you keep them from boarding the plane in the first place, the end result is the same," commented a local Icelander.Questioned About Spiritual BeliefMany who arrived in Iceland prior to IcelandAir’s use of the blacklists reported being questioned about their spiritual beliefs, and said they were asked to sign papers after boarding their flights indicating whether or not they are Falun Gong practitioners. They were also instructed to sign affidavits stating that they would not hold IcelandAir accountable for anything that the Icelandic Government might do to them upon arriving in Iceland.Customs officials inside Iceland have employed blacklists over the past four days to screen and detain Falun Gong practitioners who arrive in Iceland, redirecting them to a makeshift detention center in a nearby school building.Visit of State Head Used as "Excuse" for Communist-Style ClampdownPeter Recknagel, a German citizen who traveled to Iceland last week, says of his detention by Iceland authorities: "I think they’re not sure what to do: I was detained and interrogated, then released, then detained again. When I asked about the policy they were enforcing, they just said they were following ‘orders from above.’"In a letter faxed to the Falun Dafa Information Center on Monday, the Iceland embassy in Washington D.C. said that the altered border controls were to "ensure public order." "Interestingly, is using precisely the same language used to justify the massive arrests, beatings, torture, and deaths carried out by the public security bureau in Beijing following a peaceful appeal to the central government by Falun Gong practitioners in 1999," noted Erping Zhang, a spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York. "I think it is quite clear that Jiang Zemin is exerting tremendous pressure on Iceland to ensure he is spared the sight of peaceful demonstrations outside his hotel room during his stay in Iceland."Iceland Citizens Continue Outpouring of Support, "I, too, am Falun Gong"Yesterday, approximately 300 Iceland citizens protested around the high school-turned detention center where the Falun Gong practitioners, including American and Canadian citizens, were being held. In a show of solidarity, protesters told police that they were also Falun Gong practitioners, and wanted to be detained as well. Police officers did not arrest the Icelandic protesters.The police did, however, bring out one of the Falun Gong practitioners from inside the high school, who then led the gathered group in a set of Falun Gong exercises, and taught them to sing the Chinese song "Falun Dafa Hao" (Falun Dafa is Good).The Falun Gong practitioners being held in the makeshift detention center were later released after assuring police that any demonstrations carried out during Jiang Zemin’s visit would be held behind designated police lines and that they would not disrupt Jiang’s procession.Many Icelanders have stated their intention to join Falun Gong in their appeals against Jiang Zemin and the persecution of Falun Gong in China today.BackgroundFalun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a practice of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." It is a practice that was taught in private for thousands of years before being made public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong has roots in traditional Chinese culture, but it is distinct and separate from other practices such as the religions of Buddhism and Taoism. Since its introduction in 1992, it quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China, and is now practiced and welcomed in over 50 countries.With government estimates of as many as 100 million practicing Falun Gong, China's President Jiang Zemin outlawed the peaceful practice in July 1999, fearful of anything touching the hearts and minds of more citizens than the Communist Party. Unable to crush the spirit of millions who had experienced improved health and positive life changes from Falun Gong, Jiang’s regime has intensified its propaganda campaign to turn public opinion against the practice while quietly imprisoning, torturing and even murdering those who practice it.The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of over 422 deaths since the persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999. Government officials inside China, however, report that the actual death toll is well over 1,600. Over 100,000 have been detained, with more than 20,000 being sentenced to forced labor camps without trial.