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Giving a message... Chinese Falun Gong practitioners gather yesterday to raise awareness of organ harvesting in China. PHOTO: AMANDA CARRINGTON

A car tour to raise awareness of organ harvesting from prisoners in China visited Gore yesterday.

The tour was organised by Falun Gong practitioners, who handed out flyers promoting their cause outside H&J Smith.

Falun Gong is a Chinese spiritual group that combines meditation with a moral philosophy of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

Tour co-ordinator Susan Wang said the group was visiting eight cities in New Zealand.

It was the first time the tour had been to the South Island.

“Organ harvesting has been around for 10 years,” Ms Wang said.

In January this year, Falun Gong practitioners released a petition to the United States Senate to ban organ harvesting.

In China, people were arrested for practising Falun Gong and while in prison had their organs harvested, the group said.

In 1999, 70 million to 100 million people in China practised Falun Gong.

Ms Wang has been in New Zealand for 20 years.

She said she would never be able to return to China as a Falun Gong practitioner.

Car Tour member Annie Zhan moved to Auckland in 2004.

She was born and lived in China, where she practised Falun Gong.

The Chinese government cracked down on the spiritual practice.

During this time, Ms Zhan was studying for a master’s degree with the aim of starting a doctorate.

She was practising Falun Gong on the university campus when she was found out and asked to give up the belief.

In 2001, Ms Zhan’s father died suddenly and she returned to her home town for the funeral, she said.

A week later, she returned to her study and discovered the police had searched her room while she was away.

“After that happened, I left the school, because if it happened again the police would arrest me,” Ms Zhan said.

She then travelled across China for two and a-half years. She could not use her identity pass as she would be located.

Then the police caught up with her and she was arrested.

She spent one month in a detention centre.

Ms Zhan’s fiance lived in New Zealand and launched a campaign to save her.

She was released to New Zealand by the Chinese government.

“It’s very important we have to keep our independent voice,” Ms Wang said.