(Clearwisdom.net) On August 15, a court in Hong Kong passed down a decision that convicted the 16 Falun Gong practitioners of obstructing the street opposite the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong. This issue has attracted the attention of international and Hong Kong media. The New York Times, the Dow Jones Newswire, the Washington Times, the London Financial Times, the BBC radio service and other international media have pointed at the issue of freedom of speech and reported that the court's decision has taken Hong Kong another step closer to Beijing on the issue of Falun Gong. The Asia Wall Street Journal emphasised that this is "persecution in Hong Kong" and the South China Morning Press stated that "It was fought out in an intensely political climate".

International Media Shows Concern over Freedom in Hong Kong

On August 15, the Associated Press pointed out in an article entitled "Falun Gong followers convicted in Hong Kong case, raising worries about freedom." The news article said that "Rights activists and opposition lawmakers accused Hong Kong of appeasing Beijing by pursuing the prosecution." In its article "Hong Kong Freedoms Put to Test" on June 16, it was further pointed out that "When Hong Kong was returned from Britain to China five years ago, Western-style freedoms of expression were guaranteed for at least 50 years under a government arrangement dubbed 'one country, two systems.' But many fear those freedoms are crumbling fast."

The Dow Jones Newswire used what Law Yuk-kai of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor had said earlier, that "if the Falun Gong followers are convicted it will be hard for any protest to be carried out because demonstrators always take up some space."

"Law said that even if the Falun Gong practitioners are acquitted it will be a bad precedent because it forced them to defend actions that should have been constitutionally protected."

Reuters pointed out that "It was the first time that members of the controversial spiritual movement had been prosecuted in Hong Kong, where personal rights under previous laws were retained after China took the territory back from Britain in 1997."

Some Hong Kong News Media Criticised the Prosecution of Falun Gong Practitioners

The South China Morning Press commented in its article, "Not keeping politics out of court" that "All the prosecution witnesses who spoke of members of the public being obstructed by the demonstrators were either police officers or members of a security team employed at the liaison office."

The Mingpao Daily News pointed out that the location where Falun Gong practitioners were demonstrating was very spacious and the chance of interfering with pedestrians was very small. It said that this was "a wrong prosecution that resulted in a wrong verdict."

On August 16, the Asia Wall Street Journal commented that "the Hong Kong police had long started to think of reasons to interfere with the peaceful activities of Falun Gong practitioners. For example, with the excuse that the Food and Environment Health Department has not approved the Falun Gong practitioner's demonstration, the Hong Kong police took down the group's banners and claimed that they wanted more room to plant flower beds. So the Falun Gong practitioner's favourite demonstration location was taken away from them."

"All of the evidence has shaken the claim by the law enforcement authorities that the so called prosecution of Falun Gong practitioners is not influenced by politics. As the lawyers on behalf of the Falun Gong practitioners pointed out, the flower beds which the police designed on the footpath would obstruct the convenience of pedestrians much more than the demonstrators would."

At the end of the article, the comment was made that Falun Gong poses no threat to Hong Kong and that if the Hong Kong government wants to stabilize Hong Kong's position in international trade, it should pay more attention to justice in law enforcement.

The Apple Daily also commented that the conviction of Falun Gong practitioners for obstructing the street has caused international media to suspect that, after the return of Hong Kong to China, its citizens' rights and freedom are slowly becoming similar to those of the people in the rest of China. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are being threatened.