Falun Gong Protests Mar Chinese Holiday
BEIJING--Followers of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement chanted slogans and raised yellow banners on Tiananmen Square today, in a burst of protest that defied heavy security meant to ensure patriotic celebrations of China's National Day.
Uniformed and plainclothes police kicked and pummeled the demonstrators, but as soon as one group was subdued, others would protest. Police closed off parts of Tiananmen Square, an embarrassing act on a holiday marking 51 years of Communist rule.
Police detained at least 300 protesters in one hour alone. It was one of the largest acts of civil disobedience staged by the group since the first days following the government ban 14 months ago.
That the protests occurred proved that ardent Falun Gong devotees remain unbowed, despite police harassment and a smear campaign in state media. Police have detained thousands of followers since the crackdown began, while leaders have been sentenced to prison terms as long as 18 years.
E. Timor Tormentor Renounces Violence
KUPANG, Indonesia--A notorious militia leader surrendered his handgun in a largely symbolic gesture yesterday and vowed to abandon violence in his fight against independence for East Timor.
But the handover came as the military admitted that many gang members in Indonesian-controlled western Timor were hiding weapons in defiance of a week-long campaign to disarm them.
"I will continue my struggle in politics. But I promise, I will no longer use firearms," said Eurico Guterres, who commands the Aitarak or "Thorn" gang, after handing in a pistol and 74 bullets at a police station in western Timor's capital, Kupang.
Guterres, who admitted he had more arms, came to prominence amid the violence that engulfed East Timor last year. His gang, aided by sections of the Indonesian military, ruthlessly sacked and burned much of the capital, Dili, after the territory voted to break free of Indonesian rule.
When international peacekeepers arrived to restore order, he and hundreds of other anti-independence militiamen fled to western Timor, where they seized control of border camps and terrorized thousands of refugees there.
Italy Approves 'Morning After' Pill
ROME--The same week the United States approved the use of the controversial abortion drug RU-486, Italy agreed to allow the sale of a "morning-after pill" that it said was a "method of emergency contraception" that prevents ovulation but is not abortive. The announcement was hailed by some as a welcome alternative to abortion and teenage pregnancies, but was condemned by the Vatican and conservative political groups.
The Health Ministry approved the sale of the French-made pill, called Norlevo, on Friday, and said it will be available in Italian pharmacies in October to women with a doctor's prescription. Used within 72 hours of an unprotected sexual encounter, it works by blocking a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. RU-486 interrupts an established pregnancy.
Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican's top figure on bioethical issues, said "emergency contraceptive" was fancy wordplay to "overcome the moral resistance to abortion of many women who otherwise accept contraception," Milan's Corriere newspaper reported.
The health ministry "wants us to understand that impeding the nesting of a fertilized egg isn't a real abortion," Sgreccia said. "In reality, the fertilized egg is an embryo and an embryo is an individual human being. Therefore, blocking the implantation in the uterus is the same as suppressing it. In substance, morally, it's the same thing as a surgical abortion."
Northern Ireland's Maze Prison Closes
BELFAST--The Maze prison stood vacant after the last four prisoners were transferred elsewhere as part of a peace pact aimed at ending 30 years of strife in Northern Ireland.
"It's an end of an era," said Prison Officers' Association spokesman Finlay Spratt. "I don't think a lot of people will be sad to see the close of the Maze. It's been a blight on our life for many years and it is good to see the end of it."
The last three Protestant, pro-British "loyalist" prisoners were transferred to a prison west of Belfast, and the lone IRA prisoner was moved to a jail in County Londonderry on Friday.
Almost from the day the Maze opened, IRA convicts refused to wear their new prison uniforms and smeared excrement on their cell walls. In 1981, Bobby Sands and nine other prisoners starved themselves to death.
FOR THE RECORD
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she would visit North Korea before leaving office in January "if circumstances allow." . . . An elderly American died yesterday when a chartered Greek boat carrying mostly American tourists ran aground and sank off the Aegean island of Naxos. Greece confined 65 ships to port, saying they failed to meet safety standards, after at least 77 people died in Monday's sinking of a passenger ferry.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The Russians need to understand that Milosevic lost in this round. He is finished. It is time for him to go."
--Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, on Russian plans to mediate in Yugoslavia.