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16 Falun Gong Followers Arrested

March 14, 2002

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HONG KONG (AP) _ Police arrested 16 Falun Gong protesters _ including four Swiss _ outside the Chinese government liaison office Thursday in a scuffle that authorities said left five officers slightly injured.

Police Superintendent Michael Chiu said late Thursday the four Swiss had been released on bail. He said authorities were hoping to release all the Falun Gong followers as soon as possible, but the investigation was being impeded by some refusing to identify themselves or be bailed.

During the protest, the Chinese office made several obstruction complaints against the Falun Gong followers, and police repeatedly ordered them to move their demonstration several steps away from the front door, Hong Kong officials said.

The Falun Gong followers refused and eventually were removed in a shouting and shoving match. Police said five officers were slightly injured, including one who was kicked in the chest and one who was bitten on the arm.

The Swiss said China refused to let them enter the mainland to take their Falun Gong message to Beijing. China has outlawed Falun Gong as an ``evil cult.″

They were allowed into Hong Kong, where Falun Gong remains legal, and had vowed to go hungry for three days outside the Chinese office here in protest of China’s suppression and the alleged killings of Falun Gong followers on the mainland.

When police moved in, 12 local Falun Gong followers formed a circle to try to shield the Swiss practitioners. Some Falun Gong followers shouted ``the police are hitting us″ as they were being dragged or carried away, but it was not clear whether that was true.

``We did not hit them,″ said Chiu, the police superintendent. ``We were using minimal force to remove them.″

Swiss protester Erich Bachmann shouted from inside a police van that Hong Kong was supporting ``persecution in China″ under orders from President Jiang Zemin.

The other Swiss protesters identified themselves as Roland Isenschmid, Simone Schlegel and Lam Duy Quoc, all from Bern. Bachmann is from the northern village of Kreuzlingen.

Police said later in a statement they did not try to stop the protest, but only tried to move it a few feet away.

Update hourly