Police rounded up about a dozen human rights protesters in Kiev on Wednesday, protesting against the visit of a high-ranking Chinese official allegedly responsible for crimes against humanity in China.
Kiev Falun Gong practitioners organized a demonstration against Zhang Dejian, vice premier of the State Council of China, who came to Ukraine to take part in an international nuclear safety summit and business forum.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, Zhang is accused of taking a leading role in the persecution of Falun Gong in China during the 2002–2005 period, when he served as secretary of the Chinese Communist Party of Guangdong Province and headed the province’s 610 Office, a nationwide organization created to eradicate Falun Gong.
Zhang was also sued by a Chinese Falun Gong practitioner, Xie Yan, in Australia in 2005, for the crime of torture. Yan spent two years in a Guangdong labor camp during Zhang’s term because of her spiritual belief.
The protest took place in front of the President Hotel, where the business forum was being hosted. The practitioners barely started the demonstration when the police rounded them up—before the Chinese official arrived.
The police appeared to be looking for an excuse to drive away the practitioners, saying that they had not properly secured permission to hold the protest, and were, in fact, holding the protest in the wrong location.
However, Olga Zubakova, a Falun Gong practitioner, told The Epoch Times that they had informed the city authorities beforehand, and that there was no official ban on the activity.
The practitioners believe that the Chinese Embassy had exerted pressure on the Ukrainian government to end the protest.
“The police wanted us to leave the scene, but our activity was legal and we were not going to leave just because they wanted us to,” Zubakova said. “We wanted to inform the public that Zhang was involved in these crimes against humanity.”
The practitioners were then taken to a police station to write a letter explaining the nature of their protest, but were not charged with any crime. They were released a few hours later.
Since Russian-leaning Viktor Yanukovych took office in February 2010, police have regularly dispersed protests held against the authorities, or any high-ranking Chinese officials visiting Ukraine.
Reporters Without Borders have said that Yanukovych’s authoritarian regime routinely represses freedom of press and the right to assembly. Yanukovych has been actively collaborating with the Chinese regime on economic and cultural issues.