Serbia’s interior minister says the Falun Gong activists who attempted to hold a protest during the visit of China’s prime minister have been deported, B92 reports.
Nebojsa Stefanovic told the press on Thursday that they were deported yesterday, after being detained over attempts to organize a gathering despite the fact the authorities banned all rallies.
“A certain number of members of this sect, who are nationals of other countries, expressed their desire to organize a rally despite a warning that there is a prohibition of any gathering in Serbia during the visit of the Chinese premier,” said Stefanovic.
He added that these persons were brought in to have their identity established and that propaganda material they carried with them was confiscated.
Dejan Markovic from the Serbian-Chinese Friendship Association – himself a Falun Gong activist – told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that 11 activists who were arrested in Serbia on the eve of the China-CEEC summit have been deported.
ccording to him, they “did not intend to hold a protest during the summit in Belgrade because Serbia banned the gathering,” but nevertheless came to the country “with the intention to visit NGOs and some embassies and to draw attention to the problems of human rights violations in China.”
Milan Antonijevic from Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) told RFE that the 11 foreign nationals spent four days detained at Padinska Skela, and that the Bulgarian embassy “demanded an explanation from the Serbian authorities.”
“We were approached by the Serbian-Chinese Friendship Association on behalf of the Falun Gong activists,” said Antonijevic, adding that the organization sought information from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice.
Previously, European parliament official Eduard Kukan and Amnesty International expressed their concern and demanded that the Serbian authorities free those detained. Kukan, a member of the European EP Committee on Foreign Affairs and chairman of the EU-Serbia SAPC, announced he would ask Serbian authorities to provide an explanation about this “incident” and added:
“I am concerned about the detention of Falun Gong activists in Belgrade, who came to Serbia to drawn the attention to the human rights violations in China,” Kukan said, adding that 11 citizens of EU countries were arrested, among them nine Bulgarians, one Slovak, and one Finn.
“The EP strongly supports human rights, including the right to assembly and expression and for that reason demands that those detained are immediately released while the authorities should explain this situation,” said Kukan in his statement.
Previously, Falun Gong sent a statement to Tanjug claiming that the Serbian police on December 14 took seven Bulgarian and two Russian citizens, the organization’s activists, from their hostel in Belgrade, “but did not officially confirm they were detained.”
According to the group, three more activists, citizens of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as one Slovak and one Finn were refused entry at the border. The same statement said that the activists intended to “peacefully protest in order to raise awareness about the state of human rights in China, above all over the illegal persecution of Falun Gong.”
They planned to do this during a high-profile summit in Belgrade that gathered heads of government of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries.
Amnesty International said in a statement it was “concerned about reports on the arrest and detention of nine Bulgarian nationals, a Slovak and a Finnish national by the Serbian authorities, in what appears to be attempts to prevent the holding of peaceful demonstrations.”
The NGO said it was “concerned that the Serbian authorities are acting unlawfully, and urges them to immediately end any detention based solely on the persons’ intention to exercise their right to peaceful assembly.”