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AP: Falun Gong followers: Hong Kong leader defames us (Excerpt)

June 18, 2001 |  

HONG KONG (AP)--Members of the meditation [group] Falun Gong, which has been banned on mainland China, on Sunday said Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa defamed the group by calling it "[Tung's slanderous term omitted]." "It is absolutely a vicious slander," said local Falun Gong spokeswoman Hui Yee-han.

"Not only has he defamed us, he is also challenging the rule of law in Hong Kong and threatening the freedom of thought of Hong Kong people," she said.

[Tung's slanderous terms omitted.]

Hui said the group, which has around 500 members in Hong Kong, is "exploring the possibility" of suing Tung for defamation.

"His remarks will bring upon an unimaginable amount of damage," said Hui. "Those who don't understand would be stirred up by his words, which lead to misunderstanding, discrimination and hostility."

It is unclear whether Tung can be sued as he is immune from criminal and civil prosecution over remarks made in Legislative Council meetings.

Martin Lee, chairman of the Democratic Party and a senior counsel who specializes in defamation cases, said Tung would not enjoy such a privilege if he repeats his words in other public meetings.

"The moment he steps out (of the Legislative Council meetings)...he is liable to libel, like anybody else," Lee said.

Pro-Beijing alliances have called for some sort of restriction against Falun Gong, which has protested Beijing's brutal crackdown of the group in mainland China.

Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers regard the Falun Gong issue as one of the biggest tests of Hong Kong's freedoms of speech and religion since it reverted from British to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997.

"There is no doubt what Beijing thinks on the Falun Gong people, on the other hand, the Falun Gong people in Hong Kong, which is a separate place in a second system, have not done anything criminal," Lee said.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Cyd Ho said, "I think Tung is very careless about his words. He continuously undermines Hong Kong's superiority--freedom and a comparatively better legal system."