C h i n a N e w s D i g e s t
January 31, 2000
Falungong Leader's Portrait Obscures Mao, Temporarily
[CND, 01/30/00] In a remarkable act of defiance, sixteen members of the group Falungong attempted to unfurl a giant portrait of their founder LI Hongzhi atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace, directly obscuring the image of Chairman MAO Zedong that overlooks the north side of Tian'anmen Square, Reuters reported from Beijing on Saturday.
The Reuters report was based on information the news organization received via the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China that said that, of the sixteen participants, only TAO Hualian of Macau was detained prior to the incident. He was stopped at one of one of security checkpoints flanking the entrance to the Forbidden City. Police apprehended 15 other participants shortly after they successfully unfurled a portion of LI's portrait over the square.
Mr. Tao and the three Falungong adherents who came from Hong Kong were expelled two days after participating in the January 24 incident. However, the other twelve were mainland residents and are still being held in police custody. Falungong has been banned for the past six months in China as an "evil cult."
While it is uncertain what the punishment will be for the 12 mainlanders, two dissidents who vandalized the same portrait during the pro-democracy demonstrations of May 1989--splattering it with paint--faced serious repercussions for their actions. YU Zhijian and YU Dongyue, received life and 18-year prison sentences respectively. (Jennifer Hyman, WU Yiyi)