Hundreds of demonstrators have called on Taiwan's president to put pressure on China to release a Taiwanese businessman arrested last month for allegedly broadcasting information about Falun Gong.
On Sunday, thousands of people wearing bright yellow shirts or traditional costume followed a brass band wearing blue uniforms. They were holding bright flags and banners. The procession of Falun Gong supporters looked like many across the world commemorating the day the movement, which combines meditative exercises, lessons of morality and a cult of leadership, was banned by China.
On July 22 1999, President Jiang Zemin outlawed the movement which was already very popular in China and Falun Gong supporters started being persecuted.
The sect had provoked the government's ire in April after mobilizing 10,000 supporters for an unannounced demonstration.
Today, anybody who speaks out in favor of Falun Gong in China risks being arrested or worse, said one of the demonstrators, a 60-year-old interior designer named Lin Jiongyi. He demonstrates every weekend against what he calls China's inhumane treatment of Falun Gong supporters. "Many supporters have been jailed or sent to reeducation camps," he said. "This is also true for other religions."
An 'evil cult'
Beijing rejects allegations that Falun Gong supporters are tortured and killed in China, saying these are "sheer fabrication." However, the movement is officially considered "socially deviant." On the website of the Chinese embassy in Berlin, it is described as an evil cult, "a dark power that is against humanity, society, science and religion."
On Monday, Falun Gong supporters once again took to the streets of Taipei. However, this time it was to demonstrate against their own government. They gathered in front of the presidential palace to call for the release of Bruce Chung.
The Taiwanese businessman was arrested in Ganzhou where he was visiting his relatives last month. The authorities accused him of hijacking the signal of a Chinese TV station to broadcast programs about Falun Gong.
Nobody knows where he is detained. His daughter has appealed to the media and even travelled to the US to lobby for support among Congress members.
"My father did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime. We stand by him. We will appeal to the government every day until he is released. I hope everyone will join us," she said in Taipei.
Accused of not doing enough
President Ma Ying-jeou's government has been accused of not doing enough to secure Bruce Chung's release.
"We have tried everything to get the government to take on this case," said Lin Fengzheng, the head of a foundation that campaigns for legal reform. "No reaction. They just said they were looking into it. But nothing has happened. That's why we have been forced to come out onto the streets and call on President Ma to get Chung out fast."
The government has promised to talk to Beijing about Chung's fate through official channels.
Taiwanese business people have long complained that their passport offers them no protection in China. Falun Gong supporters feel the same. Lin Jiongyi will continue to stay clear of the People's Republic in future.
Author: Klaus Bardenhagen / act
Editor: Arun Chowdhury