Saturday, June 2, 2001

France has a civil law system that operates along very different lines from Hong Kong's English-style common law regime. That is why French law is not often cited by local lawyers. However, thanks to the Government's apparent desire to tighten control over the Falun Gong, lawyers at the Department of Justice have been closely monitoring the passage of an anti-xx law in France that empowers the courts to dissolve any "sect-like" groups.

The fear now is that although the controversial law has been much criticised by religious and human rights groups in Europe, it would give the SAR Government an excuse to adopt a similar law to ban the Falun Gong, a [group] already proscribed in the mainland by the central Government.

Local Falun Gong followers have not done anything that could remotely be considered as breaching the peace. However, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has failed to speak up for religious freedom whenever asked about the [group].


The Government would indeed be setting Hong Kong's treasured freedoms on fire if it were to clamp down on Falun Gong when the [group] has done no harm to anyone here. To do so would make a mockery of the Basic Law provisions guaranteeing freedoms of speech, religion and assembly.

Before Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule, pessimists predicted a doomsday scenario for the SAR after 1997, with Beijing ordering a crackdown on dissidents and tightening controls over free speech.

They have since been proved wrong. If Beijing has interfered with local affairs, such as in the right of abode case, it has done so on the invitation of the SAR Government.

President Jiang Zemin left it deliberately vague when he said he would leave Mr Tung to handle the Falun Gong issue in Hong Kong. Whatever the President might have really meant, there is no reason for Mr Tung to be zealous about suppressing the [group], which does not have a wide following here.

What is at stake is not just the survival of the [group], but the liberal values and institutions that set the SAR apart from the rest of China. There is a need for Hong Kong to learn from afar, and not just from English-speaking countries. But on this occasion, there is no need for us to copy the French.