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Falun Gong 'hijacks' Chinese airwaves

China
Several Westeners have been arrested over the last month for protesting on Tiananmen Square  


Staff and wires

BEIJING, China -- Bold members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement hijacked state television for as long as 50 minutes in a northeastern Chinese city to show a film protesting a crackdown on their faith.

News of the airwave takeover, one of the Falun Gong's most daring to date, emerged as China expelled seven Australian followers after they protested against Beijing's view of the group as an evil cult on Tiananmen Square.

State television broadcasts in Changchun were interrupted on Tuesday evening by footage of Falun Gong's U.S.-based leader Li Hongzhi and a film accusing the government of staging the fiery deaths of alleged followers in Tiananmen Square last year, locals told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

"There was a brief blackout and then there was Li Hongzhi speaking, banners saying Falun Dafa is good, and there was a news analysis about the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident which indicated that it was planted by the government," a television viewer in Changchun told Reuters.

The footage lasted about 50 minutes before the scheduled programming resumed, he said.

Defiant act

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The television takeover was one of the most defiant protests by members of the Falun Gong, whose once regular demonstrations in Tiananmen Square have petered out in the last year since the government arrested group leaders and sent thousands of followers to "re-education" camps.

Changchun police have arrested a local man in connection with the television act, the Changchun Evening newspaper said.

Meanwhile the Falun Gong Web site in New York says that three followers were arrested immediately following the event.

Residents living in the city said they believed the TV takeover was the work of underground Falun Gong practitioners still active in the city, but it was unclear how they managed to break into the local cable TV network.

Changchun, a city of 1.3 million people, is Li Hongzhi's hometown and thousands of people there remain faithful to the self-styled spiritual leader.

Officials at the city's police department and state-owned Changchun Cable Television Corporation, the city's biggest cable broadcaster, have declined to comment.

But a city government official told Reuters a police circular sent to city hall said high-ranking officials and investigators from the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing had been sent to Changchun to make a probe.

Australians expelled

The television protest was the group's latest effort to fight back against a fierce state media campaign to discredit the group.

Adherents from outside of China have kept up their campaign with a string of protests on the square -- the latest coming on Thursday right in front of the building where the National People's Congress, China's parliament, was holding its annual meeting.

China expelled seven Australian members of the spiritual group on Friday after the Thursday protest outside the former imperial palace in central Beijing.

The seven were put on a plane to Singapore after being detained and held overnight, Reuters reported.

Police also detained two female bystanders, one of them a foreigner. An Australian television producer who filmed the women being questioned was briefly detained and his tape confiscated.

It was the fifth protest since November on or near the square by foreign members of Falun Gong.

China branded Falun Gong an evil cult in 1999 after thousands of followers shocked the government with a mass protest demanding official recognition of their faith around the Beijing leadership compound near Tiananmen Square.

China expelled 53 Westerners last month and 35 foreign Falun Gong members in November for similar protests.



 
 
 
 






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