Monday, February 5, 2001

Human rights groups yesterday accused the security chief of using disgraceful tactics to smear the Falun Gong spiritual movement. The Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Monitor vowed to alert two visiting United Nations officials to what they called the "white terror".

Tension rose last week after Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the Government would keep a close watch on the [group], which is banned on the mainland.

[...] Ho Hei-wah, who chairs the Hong Kong Human Rights Commission, said Mrs Ip had increased political pressure on the group. "The Government is creating a white terror in Hong Kong. What does it mean by keeping a close watch? Will they be bugging their phones or have someone spying on them around the clock?"

He said Mrs Ip had smeared the group in front of the media. "I think these tactics are very disgraceful."

He asked why Mrs Ip should become involved in complaints about handbills, which many businesses and organisations distribute. It did not merit her intervention, he said.

Director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor Law Yuk-kai voiced fears that groups holding views different from the Government's would also be suppressed.

The watchdogs said they would alert UN Human Rights Committee members Justice P. N. Bhagwati and Christine Chanet when they arrive tomorrow for a five-day visit. The delegates will inspect Hong Kong's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Government issued a statement yesterday saying it was firmly committed to upholding human rights.

Executive Councillor Rosanna Wong Yick-ming said Falun Gong activities would be allowed as long as they were lawful. She had heard the Government was studying the introduction of subversion legislation, but was not aware of any timetable.

Asked if he would tighten vetting for Falun Gong public activities, Police Commissioner Tsang Yam-pui said officers would abide by the law as usual.