BEIJING – China expelled six Americans detained with other Westerners for demonstrating against the government's crushing of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday.
China said the three dozen Westerners detained Tuesday on Beijing's Tiananmen Square would be deported. They included six Americans, who by Wednesday evening had been expelled, said an embassy spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
He would not say where they were sent.
China's Foreign Ministry told Sweden's embassy that protesters would be deported on the first available flight, Ambassador Kjell Anneling said. He said the Chinese didn't specify where protesters were held, where they would be flown to or whether they would be expelled together.
The protesters sat cross-legged on Tiananmen Square, chanted and unveiled a banner before police took them away. Anneling said seven Swedes took part. He said the protest would focus attention on allegations of official brutality against followers of Falun Gong, outlawed in China as an "evil cult."
Sweden, like many European nations, has told Chinese officials their treatment of followers "is not acceptable," Anneling said.
Official media said the 35 protesters broke laws on protest, assembly and cults. It was the first Falun Gong demonstration on Tiananmen Square to involve Westerners exclusively. The square is China's symbolic heart and has been a frequent venue for protests by Chinese Falun Gong members since the group was banned in July 1999.
Falun Gong said demonstrators included Australians, Canadians, French, Germans, Irish, Israelis, Swedes, Swiss, Britons and Americans.
It identified one detainee as Zenon Dolnyckyj, from Toronto. Canadian Embassy spokeswoman Jennifer May said she too was told all the protesters would be expelled.
Diplomats said eight Germans were among those held. Switzerland said three Swiss and a Spanish citizen living there were detained. Australian reports said four Australians were in custody.
Demonstrators said they wanted to publicize the plight of Chinese Falun Gong followers.
Falun Gong says 300 followers have died from torture and mistreatment in custody. Thousands have been imprisoned. The group attracted millions of Chinese followers in the 1990s. Practitioners believe Falun Gong aids health and even gives accomplished followers supernatural powers.
China's government accuses Falun Gong of causing more than 1,600 deaths by driving followers insane or encouraging them to substitute meditation for medicine.
Meanwhile, Falun Gong said Wednesday it feared that a U.S. resident serving a three-year jail term in China for publicizing the crackdown might have been tortured and brainwashed.
China's official Xinhua News Agency claimed Tuesday that Teng Chunyan had renounced the sect.