Falun in silent protest over Hu’s visit

Followers of the Chinese meditation practice Falun Gong took a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi’s book yesterday and spent the morning in peaceful protest against the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Hundreds of followers of the practice came from all over Australia and congregated on Sydney’s Bondi Beach at 4am, meditating among candlelight for the rest of the morning.

Falun Gong spokeswoman Lilian Peng said the group hoped to use Mr Hu’s visit to highlight human rights abuses in China.

“There are more than 100 million people who practise Falun Gong in China and still they are the victims of government persecution,” she said.

“Trade agreements aside, we would like to see the Australian people and the Government stand up against human rights abuses.”

The meditation practice of Falun Gong was outlawed by the Chinese Government in 1999. Since then claims of torture, beatings and government persecution have been made by followers.

“Although it is not him (Mr Hu) that has personally persecuted Falun Gong, we ask him to stop that persecution now,” Ms Peng said.

Although much more low-key than the protests that have greeted US President George W. Bush, there has also been criticism of Mr Hu.

Earlier this week, the Chinese embassy emailed Australian news organisation warning them not to print “anti-Chinese” propaganda, prompting outrage form various human rights organisations.

In addition, nine Victorian MPs sent an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard asking him to seek a commitment from Mr Hu to resolve the problems in Tibet and to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

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