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Arrests at demo against Chinese leader in Slovakia: report
(AFP, June 18, 2009)

Bratislava, Slovakia — Slovak police detained nine people on Thursday after a scuffle broke out during a human rights protest against visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, a local news agency and witnesses said.

SITA news agency quoted a police spokesman as saying authorities had detained "nine people, including six Slovaks and three citizens of the People's Republic of China."

According to the news agency, a woman holding a poster with text promoting the Falun Gong movement -- which is outlawed in China -- had to be treated by medics after being pushed to the ground.

Slovak Falun Gong Association chairman Peter Tatarko told the agency that a group of supporters welcoming the president pushed the woman.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

A witness claimed "attackers" tried to tear down the human rights activists' posters.

"The Slovak police detained the protesters instead of the attackers," Juraj Kusnierik told AFP.

Eduard Chmelar from Amnesty International Slovakia, who said he witnessed the incident, told AFP one of the protesters "hurt his head and had to be taken to hospital, and a woman from the Falun Gong Association with a head injury was treated on the spot."

Bratislava's City Hall had banned the rally planned by six non-governmental groups including Amnesty International, the Falun Gong Association and Friends of Tibet Society, officially because the square in front of the presidential palace was reserved for the president's office, said Chmelar.

The six NGOs called on top Slovak officials to discuss human rights with the Chinese president.

Hu arrived on Thursday from Moscow for a two-day visit to Slovakia, his first ever. The former communist country is his only stop within the European Union.

Falun Gong, loosely based on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian philosophies, was founded in 1992. The sect grew in China to include tens of millions of followers in 1999, prompting the government there to ban it as an "evil cult."