TAIPEI, Jan 30 (AFP) – Members of Taiwan’s Falun Gong group Friday claimed French police had harassed and arrested practitioners as they mounted a peaceful demonstration in Paris during the visit there this week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The group outlawed by China as an “evil cult” demanded Taiwan’s foreign ministry relay a strong protest to Paris over what it called an “unreasonable and unlawful” act infringing on the basic rights and freedom of its members.
“They were checked by French police on the streets just because they were wearing yellow scarves. The police could not give them any proper reasons, except (for) saying ‘yellow scarves are illegal in France today’,” Chang Chin-Hwa, a spokeswoman for Taiwan Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, told AFP.
She added some members were arrested and questioned for two hours before being released.
Some 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners from across the globe, including 170 from Taiwan, had gathered in Paris over the past week to condemn Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, for persecuting sect members in China.
Some members from Germany and Denmark, who were not involved in any violence, were also reported to have been harassed, Chang said.
“France has turned a blind eye to China’s human rights violations but exercised pressure to infringe on the basic freedom of law-abiding people,” she said.
“We want the French government to investigate why the police could make unwarrantable arrests and to apologise to Falun Gong members.”
Taiwan Falun Dafa is estimated to have 300,000 members.
Earlier this month, the Falun Gong group in France also alleged they were barred from joining a parade on the Champs Elysees to celebrate Chinese New Year under pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Paris.
The Falun Gong protest in Paris came one day after Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian accused his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, of meddling in his government’s internal affairs. It followed Chirac’s description of Taiwan’s plans to hold a referendum as a “grave mistake”.
Taiwan has also cancelled two visits to Paris by cabinet officials in protest at Chirac’s criticism made during Hu’s visit.
China outlawed Falun Gong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an “evil cult” in mid-1999 and practitioners have subsequently faced often brutal repression.
The outlawed group claims at least 1,600 Falun Gong followers have been killed, 500 others illegally sentenced, 20,000 sent to re-education camps and 100,000 jailed.