Sequence of Events
Chinese President Hu Jintao and his 300-strong delegation arrived in Argentina on November 16. Hu is on a tour of South America with stops in Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Chile, where the APEC conference will be held on November 20 and 21.
Several groups of Falun Gong practitioners who live in Argentina gathered at several locations displaying banners in Chinese. The banners called for former Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin, who is responsible for launching the persecution of Falun Gong, and three of his chief accomplices Luo Gan, Liu Jing, and Zhou Yongkang, to be brought to justice. None of the banners targeted Hu. As Hu’s motorcade pulled out of the airport, Hu’s car slowed down in front of the banners and Hu was clearly seen turning to look at them.
Meanwhile, a second group of Falun Gong practitioners gathered outside the Hilton, awaiting the delegation with identical banners. They stood across the street from the hotel, their activity legal under Argentina’s liberal law on manifestations, which requires neither permit nor prior arrangement.
As the delegation pulled up, three individuals who claimed to be policemen but refused to show identification suddenly grabbed a long banner held by the practitioners. When a TV camera came to film them they covered their faces and ran across the street to the hotel where the delegation was staying.
According to one of the witnesses, “They were obviously paid by the embassy to do the dirty work of taking away the banner, as the Argentinean authority would not do it.”
Four practitioners remained in the park preparing to display their banners to the delegation as it exited the hotel for the presidential palace at 5pm. A few minutes before five, several Chinese men approached the practitioners and tried grabbing a banner, tearing it in the process. One of the Chinese was taken away by Argentinean police.
Thirty Chinese men then exited the hotel and crossed the street to the park where the practitioners stood. At first the police kept them away. But just as Hu was about to exit the policemen said “We have to let you settle this among yourselves,” and left.
The policemen had not yet left the park when the thirty men approached the practitioners and, with knives in their hands, began cutting the banners. Four practitioners protected the banners and were beaten up. One of the Chinese bit a practitioner’s arm. The banners were all either destroyed or taken away.
The four victims are pressing charges.
The group of thugs immediately left for the palace where another group of Falun Gong practitioners had prepared banners. Walking faster than the presidential procession, the group
One Argentinean practitioner said since they believe their phones were tapped by Chinese agents, it would not have been difficult for them to know the exact location of the banners.
Now in front of the palace, the thirty men surrounded the practitioners who were there and struggled to get the banners from them. They formed a wall, keeping passers by from seeing the practitioners or the banners.
That evening several Falun Gong practitioners gathered in front of the Foreign Ministry where a state dinner was to be held. They displayed the banners and meditated in front of the entrance.
A Chinese woman was seen standing together with the Argentinean policemen, talking on a cell phone. The police began pressuring the practitioners to put away the banners.
Minutes before Hu arrived more policemen appeared. When three practitioners refused to let go of the banners police arrested them with the banners still in their arms. The practitioners said they were treated well and released at midnight.
Three hours later the police officer in charge explained to the practitioners that a female colonel from the Chinese military pressured the Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Executive Office to remove the practitioners. The women is believed to be the Chinese Embassy’s military attaché seen talking on her phone.
That same evening, as practitioners remained in the park to meditate, a contingent of anti-riot police protected them from a group of Chinese men who belligerently approached them. Practitioners had received violent threats before, most notably from the Chinese Embassy’s Cultural Attaché, Zhang Yi, who once openly screamed at a practitioner that he will slaughter her.
With no banners left, practitioners distributed fliers outside Argentina’s National Congress on Wednesday. The same group of Chinese who had been violent the previous day again accosted the practitioners. With TV cameras filming them, they still forcefully grabbed the fliers out of their hands.
The attackers According to a witness, passersby began shouting at the Chinese: “How can you do this in Argentina?”
Immediate media reports about the events initially remained true to the facts. The following day, however, they highly resembled the language of the Chinese Embassy with statements such as: “The only flaw of the otherwise flawless visit of president Hu from China is the manifestation of the prohibited cult.”
Falun Gong activities have gained an international reputation for being peaceful, often including only meditation sessions and display of banners. Facing violence such as the persecution in China or the attacks in Argentina, practitioners hold fast to Falun Gong’s teachings of: “Don’t hit back when hit and don’t curse back when cursed.”