Chinese embassy officials beat me, student says

OTTAWA - A Chinese student attending school in Ottawa says he was dragged, kicked and beaten inside the Chinese embassy after taking a picture of an anti-Falun Gong exhibit during an open house.

Xueliang (Leon) Wang, 25, a business administration student at the University of Ottawa, says embassy officials implied he had no recourse because he was on Chinese territory.

"They were vicious and frightening," Wang said yesterday. "I never expected anything like this in Canada."

Local police were investigating the Dec. 28 incident. Foreign Affairs officials said they were waiting for a police report before deciding whether any action could or should be taken.

Without addressing specific charges, the embassy said Wang and other Falun Gong practitioners repeatedly tried to force their way into the building and ultimately "sneaked in . . . and disrupted its normal functioning."

"Trying to mislead the public and the media by cooking up sensational stories is a trick often played by the Falun Gong," said a statement.

The embassy said the intent of the exhibition was to expose the "cult nature" of the Falun Gong and that local practitioners did everything they could to stop the exhibit, including "dozens of threatening calls and letters."

Falun Gong is a mix of traditional Chinese philosophies and teachings of its founder, Li Hongzhi, which the Chinese government says drives people insane.

During an interview, Wang produced an e-mail invitation to "a movie party" at 4 p.m. on Dec. 28 and a cockeyed photograph he took there. It shows a display board declaring Falun Gong "a scourge."

Wang says he was approached by two embassy staff after taking the photo of part of an exhibition of 90 posters he said were "defaming" Falun Gong.

The staff was shouting "he's taking pictures," said Wang.

He said he was dragged out of the hall to the main entrance, where he said he was surrounded by three or four embassy staff demanding he turn over his film. He refused.

"Do you know where you are?" he quoted them as saying. "This is Chinese territory."

Wang said witnesses saw him dragged downstairs and into a room. Behind a closed door, he said officials beat him while another stood guard.

"One of them held my arm and another hit my head very heavily," he said. "I felt very, very dizzy. My head was spinning. But I was still conscious."

He said he was thrown and knocked down several times, his arms were twisted and his legs kicked.

He said he was repeatedly threatened and reminded he was on Chinese territory.

"Either you give us the film or we will call the RCMP," he said he was told. "I said I wanted to see the RCMP."

Wang said he was released after an official confirmed he had been invited to the party.

Wang said he was detained and beaten twice as a Falun Gong practitioner in China in 1999 - once for eight days and once for more than 20 days.

Falun Gong drew members in the late 1990s with a combination of slow-motion exercises and beliefs.

Though the movement is practised in more than 50 countries, China rejects claims it promotes health. It says it has caused more than 1,600 deaths.

Falun Gong practitioners say more than 300 have died from torture and abuse since China launched a crackdown on the movement in July, 1999.