Russian police arrested twelve Falun Gong practitioners who were holding a peaceful appeal in front of the Chinese embassy in Moscow on Saturday ahead of Hu Jintao's visit.
The first Falun Gong adherents to be arrested were 68-year-old Surova and Gerlitz. Later in the afternoon, Valiullov, along with 30-year-old Shetkina, and 28-year-old Markin were arrested, and by 3:30 p.m., the number of Falun Gong practitioners arrested totaled twelve.
Six of the practitioners were Russian nationals, and two others, 33-year-old Brug and 21-year-old Podsosonny, were Ukrainian. One of the Ukrainians was a cameraman for the New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV).
Falun Gong is a form of meditation and exercise that was outlawed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1999. Since then, the adherents of the peaceful practice have become targets of persecution by the Chinese regime, and the persecution has left thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in prisons, forced labor camps, and brainwashing centers.
The group were supporting a one-person protest near the consulate (one person was holding a banner and others stood to the side of him), an activity that doesn't require government approval and is considered a constitutional right. The purpose of the activity was to protest against the brutal persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese communist regime and to raise awareness about the human rights violations in China. The group has been holding similar one-person protests by the embassy for many years.
After the arrests, only three of the practitioners were interrogated, and they were charged with administrative violations at the Ramenki Moscow detention center. The charges against them include "disobedience to police" and "absence of Moscow city registration." Others were released without any charges or proceedings 1 to 3 hours after the arrests.
According to officer Kulagin Alexander Vladimirovich, the reason for the arrest was the complaint from the Chinese embassy, that practitioners were interfering with their work. The officer also referred to the Viennese Convention, according to which they were forced to arrest Russian nationals in case they were disturbing foreign diplomatic officials. At the Moscow City Administration, practitioners were informed of the numerous reports of "disturbance" coming from the Chinese embassy.
Alla Khegai, a witness and participant in the protest, said: "There was nothing disturbing about our behavior. To use the Viennese Convention as grounds for arrest was very poor reasoning. In fact, we could see about 10-15 plainclothes Chinese officials lurking around and pointing out practitioners to the Russian police officers to arrest."
Khegai said that the practitioners were spread around the area, some of them peacefully meditating, others, sitting on the benches in the adjacent area. There was no sound except for the loud and often offensive advances from the police, assigned to patrol the area, Khegai said.
Whenever the practitioners tried to get closer to the building to display a banner, police would force them to back up or try to herd them together to incriminate them with attempts of unauthorized group-activity, Khegai said.
Participant Tamara Kim commented, "Later in the afternoon there was a Chinese delegation expected to arrive, so the tension immediately grew more acute. We crossed over to the other side of the pond, and sat in meditation, but the police did not hesitate to walk all the way over there to arrest us and take us away in their vans."
Kim said after a couple of hours spent in the Ramenki police division, most Falun Gong practitioners left without having been interrogated or accused of anything since the mission of removing them from the area had been accomplished.
The main activities for Hu Jintao's visit will be held in Moscow on March 26, 2007.