Oct 1, 2002

Since ancient times, people have always hoped to live a happy life and prayed for peace and harmony. Until more recently when politics emerged, these simple and pure wishes for peace and harmony were incorporated into--and eventually replaced by-- the phrase of "national security." And in today's China, governed by an authoritarian regime, the meaning of "national security" has become deviated and acts as a sword hanging above the heads of the Chinese people.

Pressured by the authoritarian regime, the SAR government hastily published a so-called Consultation Document on the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law. Under the pretense of safeguarding "national security," the government is clearly targeting certain groups and aggressively attacking Hong Kong's fundamental rights and freedoms--no matter how much they are trying to conceal it.

As many legal experts have pointed out, the current laws of the SAR basically cover the offences listed in Article 23, and it is not necessary to introduce the laws separately. Even though "secession" or "subversion" is not specifically listed in the Common Law, there are enough in the existing laws to address these acts. However, as Hong Kong has never seen those offences, the hasty enactment of Article 23, and the strong determination to seal "loopholes" that have never been taken advantage of, make people wonder what is the real intention behind all this activity.

The Consultation Document that came out last week further proves that the proposal not only won't bring any extra protection of peace and harmony, but will actually undermine the rule of law and the human morality from which a nation draws its security. This will in turn create many more loopholes that can be easily taken advantage of, and may very well crush Hong Kong's freedoms, which will lead to the collapse of the "one country, two systems."

For example, definitions of "national security" and "state secrets" are key elements in anti-subversion laws. The government's proposal says that it can--without any investigation or consideration--fully accept and follow the Mainland's definition of these concepts as well as relevant judgments to punish relevant local groups or individuals.

Anyone who has a little understanding about the current situation knows very well that Mainland China is still governed by an authoritarian regime. The Central Government's definitions of "national security" and "state secrets" are infinitely broad. Also, in practice, it doesn't make any legal distinction among important concepts such as Government, State and the Communist Party. Under the pretense of safeguarding national security or state secrets, peaceful dissenters are frequently rounded up, and unwanted groups often driven underground. Revealing the widespread of the Aids disease in a particular place inside China, or disclosing to the media that dissidents are being tortured in mental hospitals, or even reporting on a large-scale strike by workers could provoke a subversive label.

Mr. Chu O-ming, a permanent resident of Hong Kong and also a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested seven days after he followed legal procedures to file a complaint against Jiang Zemin and two other leaders with the Supreme People's Procuratorate in August 2000. He was handed a five-year prison sentence and received severe mental and physical torture. Dr. Teng Chunyan, a doctor of Chinese medicine practicing in the United States, was sent to a labor camp for three years for disclosing to overseas media that Falun Gong practitioners were thrown into mental hospitals. These two are still being detained.

There are many, many other people who have a sense of justice and are deeply concerned with the future of the nation that have been wrongfully prosecuted under the lawless authoritarian regime, creating countless human tragedies. If the SAR government follows Mainland closely on those erroneous judgments, isn't it a double fault to subject even more people to wrongful prosecution? In addition, such laws can be easily manipulated to attack those groups, media or individuals that are not to the Mainland authorities' liking. Then, how could the spirit of "one country two systems" be demonstrated?

There is one clause in particular that makes people think of Falun Gong's future in Hong Kong: A "Secretary for Security" is proposed to be empowered to proscribe groups in Hong Kong should its organization in Mainland be proscribed on the grounds of "national security." Although the Secretary may have said that since Falun Gong in Mainland was not banned on the grounds of "national security" local Falun Gong would not be affected, but as experienced as she is, Ms. Secretary should know that to an authoritarian regime that has the control of vast state resources, including the judiciary system, the law enforcement branch and media tools, fabricating evidence and trumping up new "crimes" is as simple and natural as breathing. In fact, the various labels that the Jiang Zemin regime slapped on Falun Gong serve as proof that he is above the Constitution and the law.

Here is an illustration. Jiang Zemin personally announced the "judgment" that Falun Gong was an "evil cult" in front of a French reporter while visiting France. Mainland media also quickly published editorials to support the claim. The police then took the words of Jiang and the newspapers as legal grounds. This was how the label of "evil cult" came about for Falun Gong. In addition, labels like "reactionary organization," "terrorist organization" can be used any way they like.

This approach, in which Mainland makes the judgment and Hong Kong follows, highlights the most dangerous aspect of the proposed laws. This would allow a dictator to impose his own will on the government and people, and spread the resulting human rights abuses, persecution of Falun Gong and other peaceful groups to Hong Kong. If the SAR enacts such local laws, it will not be far-fetched that the once-free Hong Kong will soon be no different from the rest of China.

The SAR authorities also have said repeatedly that existing laws of many democratic countries were studied while drafting the consultation document--to show that the proposal complies with international standards. However, we feel that the resemblance is only superficial and that the true harm is concealed. The SAR government has consistently avoided talking about one important factor, which is that Hong Kong lacks the checks and balances characteristic of a true democracy in comparison to those Western countries.

Under the pretense of protecting national security, the consultation paper proposes to allow the police more power so they can enter and search private dwellings and investigate financial matters in case of emergency. This reminds us of the frequent occurrences in which the public security people ransack the homes of Mainland Falun Gong practitioners and arrest people without proper legal procedures. With this proposal, this may also happen in Hong Kong, even though officials pledged that there would not be a repeat of the phenomenon known as the "white terror" with massive arrests. If there is no effective and legal restriction on this kind of behavior, then these verbal promises will just be reassuring talk that aims to deceive the public and quell dissatisfaction.

In fact, the abuse of existing laws to curtail freedom of expression and assembly is already evident in the SAR's dealings with Falun Gong. In November 2001, under the guidance of the Hong Kong police, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department forcibly removed a banner Falun Gong practitioners used in a demonstration by citing a completely unrelated Food and Environmental Hygiene Ordinance. Also, in an incident that happened on March 14th of this year, an ordinance that was originally intended to regulate obstruction caused by street vendors was applied to arrest 16 Falun Gong practitioners who were conducting a peaceful petition on that day. Those peaceful petitioners were prosecuted under the same ordinance.

Regrettably, in the process of drafting laws for Article 23, the Hong Kong SAR government has not demonstrated genuine respect for the freedoms and rights of Hong Kong residents. The consultation process feels more like a sales promotion. It proceeds on a timetable dictated secretly by Mainland authorities. On a matter so crucial to Hong Kong's future, the SAR government even refused reasonable suggestions that it should present a detailed draft for public consultation. No matter how much the authority tries to make the proposal appear lenient and reasonable, this kind of irresponsible attitude in and of itself is very troublesome. As the dictator betrays the interest of people and destroys human morality at will, if the people quietly accept the tyranny, hopes for peace and harmony will inevitably be dashed. The so-called "national security" will be reduced to the kind of "security" that would allow a small circle of authorities to comfortably satisfy their own selfish desires. There will be no peace or harmony left to talk about.

The hardships that Mainland Falun Gong practitioners have been through over the last three years attested to all these. They have always followed the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance," and no matter how much pressure they face, they relentlessly, in a peaceful and rational manner, demand the Chinese government to stop the wrongful and barbaric persecution of Falun Gong. This persecution has hurt tens of millions of law-abiding citizens who uphold Chinese traditions. People have been fired from their jobs, expelled from schools, forced to attend brainwashing classes, thrown into mental hospitals, sent to jail or labor camps, and even tortured to death, all for practicing Falun Gong. The persecution has consumed tremendous state resources, resulted in international condemnation and sent chills down the spine of many Chinese. Together with the effort of other nations and kind-hearted people, Falun Gong practitioners' demands of "stop the killing," "stop the persecution," and "respect human rights" are genuinely helping create peace and harmony in the world.

We deeply feel that the HKSAR government and the people of Hong Kong should not be victimized by the tyranny of Jiang Zemin, and the people of Hong Kong should not live in terror. We strong oppose any measures through which national interest or security may be used as a pretense to attack innocent people. We will make attempts to have a dialogue with the SAR government to further express our concerns over the enactment of Article 23. Let's all stand up to stop the tyranny from seeping into Hong Kong. Let's fulfill our responsibility to future generations and defend the freedoms and basic interests of Hong Kong. Let's work together to build a bright future for all of us.

Hong Kong Falun Gong Practitioners

Contact: HUI Yee-han 9879-9879, Sharon Xu 9263-4150, Sophie Xiao 9108-2057