Falungong barred from joining Paris Chinese New Year parade

Followers of the Falungong group have been barred from joining a parade on Paris' famed Champs Elysees avenue to mark Chinese New Year celebrations, the organisation said in a statement.

"Following pressure from the Chinese embassy, the organisers of the Chinese New Year celebrations have refused to authorise the Association France Falungong to join the parade," the statement said.

The Falungong group, which at one point claimed millions of followers in China, has been banned as an "evil cult" by Beijing since 1999.

"Despite repeated demands, (Paris) police authorities have refused to allow Falungong to stage its own parade in an acceptable location and conditions.

"The French motto includes the word 'equality'. We wish that the French authorities would put this into practice," the text added.

Paris is to mark Chinese New Year with an elaborate show involving 54 floats, 12 giant totems and 7,500 performers who will parade up the Champs Elysees on January 24.

Falungong, which claims millions of followers worldwide, was at one point viewed by Chinese leaders as one of the most serious threats to their rule.

The group claims that more than 1,600 of its members have been tortured or beaten to death in China since a crackdown ordered four years ago largely drove the organisation underground.