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Falun Gong Is a Presence at Hu-Bush Meeting

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In addition to that heckler at today's ceremony, there were also protests outside the White House gates, including many Falun Gong practitioners. They say their colleagues, friends and families have been victims of systematic repression in China.

NPR's Kathleen Schalch reports.

KATHLEEN SCHALCH reporting:

Some sat in the shade in rows, with their legs crossed, eyes closed, keeping one hand resting in their laps and the other raised as if in prayer. Others held big, red and yellow banners and wore T-shirts imprinted with the words truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.

Software engineer Tommy Su (ph) came in a bus from Chicago. Su says Falun Gong is not a political movement, but a traditional type of exercise for the mind and body, like yoga or Tai Chi. But he says, China's government began cracking down against practitioners in 1999.

Mr. TOMMY SU (Protestor): We have 100 million practitioners in China before the persecution. You know, Chinese Communist Party, they try to control everything, including people's mind.

SCHALCH: He says the government bankrupts Falun Gong practitioners, ruins their reputations, and even subjects them to torture to the point of death. He cited press reports about a concentration camp.

Mr. SU: From 2001 until now, they detain 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners. None of them ever walked out alive.

SCHALCH: Su and other protestors suspect Falun Gong prisoners' organs are being harvested and sold on the black market. Fae Chen (ph), who came from Texas, held a blurry photo of a dead man, his torso ribboned by a ragged, Y-shaped scar.

Ms. FAE CHEN (Protestor): That's why, all around China, many people from Japan, from Korea, even from U.S., they go to China to do all the chest implants. Even the Chinese web site, they tell you, we can find the kidney, liver and even heart in one week.

SCHALCH: Jo Jin Di (ph) stood apart from the other protestors, clutching pictures of her own husband, when he was alive, and of herself holding his ashes.

Ms. JO JIN DI (Protestor): He was killed by (unintelligible).

SCHALCH: Is that the police?

Ms. DI: Yeah, that's the police. Special (unintelligible) every corner of China. That's why I want to ask President Bush to encourage Hu Jintao to open all the labor camps where they kept Falun Gong practitioners in prison.

SCHALCH: China has vehemently denied allegations of torture and organ harvest. For his part, President Bush today did not mention Falun Gong specifically in his public remarks. But he did urge President Hu to allow the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, speak freely and to worship. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kathleen Schalch
Kathleen Schalch is a general assignment reporter on NPR's national desk. Her coverage can be heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.