FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 5, 2002 [ http://www.faluninfo.net/ ]
Video footage and eyewitness accounts contradict the charges of obstruction and assault against the 16, including four from Switzerland, who were staging a peaceful appeal on the sidewalk in front of the Chinese Liaison Office on March 14, 2002. The sidewalk in front of the Chinese Liaison Office is approximately 30 feet wide, while the appealers had occupied an area no more than ten feet across, leaving ample room for pedestrians. Video footage of the event also shows that the presence of 50-60 police surrounding the appealers blocked off the entire sidewalk, and that police employed choking, squeezing pressure points, and other violence on the appealers as they dragged them away.
According to one Falun Gong practitioner attending the trial proceedings, the prosecution has called no third-party witnesses in the trial, only police and Liaison Office security guards. Yet emotional outbursts and reported bias on the part of the judge have kept observers uncertain in a case where the evidence overwhelmingly appears in favor of the defense.
In its biennial report on Hong Kong, the UK Government expressed strong concern about Hong Kong's ongoing commitment to respect freedoms, highlighting this case as an example of pressure from China to degrade them. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated, "It is vital... that the basic rights and freedoms afforded to the people of Hong Kong through the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law continue to be upheld." "[The British government] believes that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech must not be compromised."
"The video footage and eyewitness accounts demonstrate that the accusations against the Falun Gong practitioners are groundless," said Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Levi Browde. "Together with the reports about Jiang Zemin extending the persecution of Falun Gong outside China, it becomes clear that this trial is really about whether or not the rule of law in Hong Kong can withstand the will of Jiang Zemin. If it can't, what will the future hold for Hong Kong and those who have interests here? The law cannot protect them."
The Swiss traveled to Hong Kong after reading the news that officials in China gave orders to shoot Falun Gong practitioners simply for handing out flyers. The appeal on the sidewalk was fully legal according to Hong Kong's Basic Law, which allows gatherings of fewer than 50 without permit. The four Swiss, who sat in meditation with signs behind them and wore sashes indicating their hunger strike, were joined by 12 locals.
Wooden barricades now occupy the spot in front of the Chinese Liaison Office where the appeal took place, taking up much more space than the appeal itself. Hong Kong government officials also plan to build a vehicle drop-off point and install flower beds there, apparently to block further appeals.
The trial has provoked criticism worldwide. Rallies have been held at Hong Kong and Chinese Embassies and Consulates in Canada, the US and Europe. Videos of the incident have been made available to media and government in many areas.
Timeline and photos available at: http://www.faluninfo.net/focus/hongkong.asp
Hong Kong: Adam Liening 852 9442 5022, Sophie Xiao 852 9108 2057
New York: Levi Browde: 1 914 720 0963, Erping Zhang: 1 646 533 6147