Serbia deported 11 foreigners arrested during the Belgrade visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, officials said Thursday, as Amnesty International expressed concern over the “unlawful” detention of the “rights activists”.
“Falun Gong activists, who tried to hold a protest during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang… were expelled from Serbia,” stated Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, quoted by state-run Tanjug news agency.
The Falun Gong is a Buddhist-inspired religious group that was banned in China in 1999.
Tanjug quoted Stefanovic as saying that “the foreigners expressed a will to organise a gathering against the law, despite a warning that all demonstrations would be banned during the Chinese premier’s visit”.
Milan Antonijevic of the NGO Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) told AFP that seven Bulgarian nationals, two Russians, a Finnish woman and a Slovak citizen were arrested on Monday and taken to a detention centre in a Belgrade suburb.
“The 11 were detained by police upon arrival at their hotels, so they had no chance to do anything wrong,” Antonijevic said.
Amnesty International expressed concern that the 11 were arrested “unlawfully” and that their detention was “based solely on [their]intention to exercise their right to peaceful assembly.”
The group planned to take part in specific demonstrations against repressive actions against Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese authorities, the international rights group said in a statement.
“Falun Gong supporters registered in Serbia had previously tried to get approval for a peaceful demonstration denouncing the policies of the Chinese government but local police refused nine of their requests without any justification,” Antonijevic said.
Amnesty said that “beside those detained, two activists travelling from Finland were refused entry at the airport border, reportedly on the basis of a list held by the authorities, and were immediately deported on the return flight.”
Li arrived in Belgrade on Monday for a two-day summit with 16 counterparts from Central and Eastern Europe, and left on Thursday.