CNN: HK prosecutes Falun Gong
June 17, 2002
HONG KONG, China -- A group of [practitioners] of the Falun Gong [...] has been put on trial in Hong Kong in connection with a sidewalk protest.
Sixteen [practitioners] of the movement -- including four Swiss nationals -- are facing trial over a sidewalk protest that turned violent in March outside a government building in Hong Kong.
Four of the protesters are accused of assaulting police officers. The clash caused minor injuries to seven officers and nine demonstrators, the prosecutor said.
All 16 participants in the demonstration are also charged with two counts of the lesser offense of obstructing the public, for which they could face three months in prison or a fine of HK$500 ($64).
But three of the demonstrators are charged with obstruction, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
The Falun Gong [practitioners], who pleaded not guilty to the charges, said they were confident of winning their case.
It was impossible to believe that "our small, polite and peaceful appeal" had run afoul in a civilized society like Hong Kong, Swiss national Erich Bachmann was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.
"Hong Kong, with its tradition of human rights, should be an example for human rights, law, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of belief," Bachmann added.
But the case-- the first criminal trial against the group in the territory-- has raised concerns that the 'one country, two systems' policy is eroding, and that Hong Kong is beginning to yield to pressures from the mainland.
The Swiss Falun Gong [practitioners] said they had sought to travel to Beijing to make an appeal to Chinese officials against the brutal crackdown against Falun Gong practitioners. But they were refused entry to mainland China so they demonstrated in Hong Kong instead.
The Falun Gong alleges that many of its [practitioners] have been jailed or sent to labor camps, and that as many as 300 of the group's [practitioners] have died in police detention since it was banned by China in July 1999.
Category: Persecution Outside China