Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Tainan urges Falun Gong to leave site

TAKING ACTIONAccording to city officials, Falun Gong members have gathered in front of Fort Provincia for a long time, which has damaged the city’s tourism industry

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The Tainan City Government has decided to persuade Falun Gong protesters to leave a historic site where they have maintained a constant presence to highlight their cause.

City government officials yesterday said the decision was reached after a meeting on Monday. If their efforts to communicate with the protesters fail, they will consider further steps, the officials said.

The city was particularly concerned about the possibility of a repeat of an incident on June 21 as the city gears up to welcome the expected influx of Chinese tourists next month.

On that day, a delegation of Chinese travel representatives visited the historic Fort Provincia in Tainan City. The fort was built in 1653.

Fearing that Chinese visitors would clash with the Falun Gong protesters gathered at the fort, the city government reportedly moved the protesters to another spot before arranging for the representatives to enter the fort via a side door.

In view of the city government’s handling of the Falun Gong devotees, some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) city councilors yesterday expressed concern about the matter, calling on the city government not to remove or use any forceful action against the group.

Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) has previously stated his support for freedom of speech. The city government’s cultural and tourism bureau yesterday said that the city government has long respected the religious thought and freedom of Falun Gong and would not use force against the group.

According to city officials, Falun Gong devotees have gathered in front of the fort for a long time, which officials believe has put tremendous pressure on the city’s tourism.

Bureau chief Hsu Keng-hsiu (許耿修) said that Falun Gong devotees have long maintained a presence in front of Fort Provincia and on the sidewalk of the 300-year-old Sacrificial Martial Temple nearby.

They also post signs, which he said violate traffic regulations restricting the posting of advertisements.

The city government will first “try to persuade them to leave,” and will “refrain from forcing them to disperse for the time being,” he said.

As for the protesters at Anping Fort, a fort in suburban Tainan built by the Dutch in 1624, Hsu said they have rented a pavilion in front of the fort, and are not breaking the law or city regulations.

The city government will not “take any action there.”

China in 1999 outlawed Falun Gong, a spiritual practice invented by Li Hongzhi (李洪志). Li has said that Falun Gong is simply a popular qigong activity that does not have any particular organization, let alone any political objectives.

Falun Gong protesters have since gained the spotlight in many countries protesting against what they say is Beijing’s practice of torturing the movement’s practitioners.

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