The First Human Rights Case Involving Hong Kong and Taiwan
On February 21, 2003, about 80 Falun Gong practitioners from Taiwan were refused entry to Hong Kong even though they all had valid visas, and they were returned against their will. The incident caused the Taiwan authorities to lodge a protest with the Hong Kong government. Four of the returned practitionersï¿½"who are either lawyers, computer engineers, or senior public servants by professionï¿½"and two practitioners from Hong Kongï¿½"one representing the Hong Kong Falun Gong Association and the other a contact personï¿½"filed a judicial review with the High Court in Hong Kong, accusing the Hong Kong government of denying the plaintiffs entry for their common "Falun Gong backgrounds, and because of their intention to participate in Falun Gong activities on their trip to Hong Kong." The review stated that the decision by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong to refuse entry was made on the basis of religious and faith discrimination in violation of international covenants on civil and political rights, the Fundamental Law, and the Basic Human Rights Law in Hong Kong. Therefore, the review asked the High Court to declare the decision illegal and demanded compensation to the plaintiffs. The action is the first human rights case involving Hong Kong and Taiwan and one of the 54 international human rights lawsuits that Falun Gong groups have filed worldwide against the persecution.
International Attention-the Falun Gong Groups in Taiwan and Hong Kong Point to the CCP for Violation of Human Rights
When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, Beijing pledged to observe the rule of "one nation, two systems," as stipulated in the Fundamental Law of Hong Kong. But after the return of Hong Kong was completed, the Chinese communist regime has continuously undermined Hong Kong's rule of law. It first directed the pro-Beijing forces in the Hong Kong government and legislature to promote Article 23 of the Fundamental Law, and then did everything it could to obstruct Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong. It gave orders to its thugs to physically attack Falun Gong practitioners, and since 2001, told the Hong Kong government to block overseas Falun Gong practitioners with valid visas from entering Hong Kong for Falun Gong events. Over 300 Falun Gong practitioners have been denied entry in the past six years. The Falun Gong groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan could tolerate this no longer and decided to take the matter to court in a further effort to expose the Chinese communist regime's cowardly attempts to suppress Falun Gong overseas.
Beijing is the only regime in the world that bans Falun Gong, but the Falun Gong groups and their activities in Hong Kong are protected under the rule of "one nation, two systems," by the Fundamental Law of Hong Kong and other human rights laws. It is a situation different from what is going on in China where the Communist Party manipulated domestic laws to persecute Falun Gong. Thus, the review pointed out that the CCP provided the Hong Kong government with a black list of Falun Gong practitioners and controlled from behind the scenes and extended the persecution to Falun Gong groups overseas. The review went further to demand that the court hold the CCP accountable for providing the black list and for its other acts of persecution, and to uphold justice by recovering human rights for the people in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The case has received wide attention. The U.S. State Department mentioned it in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued in February 2004 by the Bureau of Labor on Democracy and Human Rights under the item "Religious Freedom," Hong Kong area. (Original text: 80 overseas Falun Gong practitioners, mostly from Taiwan, were refused entry into Hong Kong to attend a conference in February (see Section 2.d.). Four of those practitioners filed a judicial review against the Immigration Department's decision to refuse entry. In May, the judge accepted their application to proceed with the case. At year's end, the group awaited further instruction from the court. In June 2002, over 90 foreign practitioners were also denied entry upon arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport (see Section 2.d.))
The Commission on Human Rights at the United Nations also challenged the legal grounds of the Hong Kong government's move to return Falun Gong practitioners during its annual meeting in March 2006. There were about a thousand reports on the case in international media, most of which quoted the plaintiffs' words, underscoring the fact that the Hong Kong government's refusal to let Taiwan practitioners enter was related to the CCP's intent to prevent overseas Falun Gong practitioners from entering Hong Kong.
Procedural Hearingsï¿½"the Hong Kong Government Covers up Evidence of Falun Gong Blacklist
The case was first filed on April 7, 2003, and it took almost two years before the six plaintiffs' eligibilities were confirmed to file such a case. In September 2005 and in January and February 2006, the court proceeded with the discovery application with regard to evidence of the Hong Kong government's denial of plaintiffs' entry and whether or not the Hong Kong government had the Falun Gong black list provided by the CCP.
Despite the positive judgment by the presiding judge, Justice Hartmann, on the plaintiffs' request that relevant evidence be provided, the Hong Kong government, unwilling to cooperate with the court throughout, refused to provide any substantive information, proving the real reason for returning the plaintiffs under the pretext of immunity of "public interests" and requested that the judges, not the plaintiffs, read the "confidential documents." Even though the justice agreed to that request and read the documents privately, in his later judgment he stated that the information provided by the Hong Kong government was hardly relevant to the human rights issue in the case. Emboldened by its boss behind the scenes, the Hong Kong government had refused to admit that returning practitioners was linked to Falun Gong or the blacklist provided by the CCP. But it could never come up with any evidence or facts that could prove the plaintiffs could be considered a threat to the security in Hong Kong, as had been claimed. So the court gave up hope that it could obtain any useful information based on which it could make its judgment on this rights case. As a result, the plaintiffs and the international media were even more convinced that the CCP did give instructions to prevent Falun Gong practitioners from entering Hong Kong, and they were more convinced that the Hong Kong government would never say that the central government had done anything illegal.
Substantive Hearingsï¿½"the Justice Reprimands the Hong Kong Government for Lack of Candor
Four years after the case was brought to the court, the High Court in Hong Kong, the court responsible for the first trial of the case, conducted its substantive hearings of the case from March 5-8, 2007. Justice Hartmann will have to render his judgment as to whether the Hong Kong government has violated the Fundamental Law for Hong Kong and the International Covenant on Human Rights by returning these Taiwan Falun Gong practitioners. The opening of the hearings in early March marked the beginning of the important phase in which the High Court would have to come to a decision on this basic human rights case.
During the substantive hearings from March 5 to 8, 2007, the lawyer for the plaintiffs provided a detailed account of the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong groups, the peaceful activities of Hong Kong practitioners, including the dismissal of a case against Falun Gong practitioners who were accused of blocking traffic in 2002, and the statement of former CCP diplomat, Mr. Chen Yonglin, who testified in a U.S. congressional hearing, describing how he had once helped the CCP collect names of Falun Gong practitioners for a blacklist. The lawyer also brought the issue of "one nation, two systems" to the justice's attention once again. Mr. Xia Boyi, the plaintiffs' attorney, explained that the legal system in the mainland was different from that of Hong Kong, and the definitions for "demonstration" in the two places were different. The CCP regarded Falun Gong's activities or its demonstrations as "disruption of public order," and if the Hong Kong government treated them the same and used the information provided according to the mainland's standard as the grounds to refuse to let Taiwan plaintiffs enter Hong Kong to attend Falun Gong's "disrupting" activities, it was obviously incorrect and irrational administration of law.
On the last day of the hearings on March 8, Justice Hartmann clearly told the defense lawyer, Feng Huajia, not to beat around the bush and said that up to now all the documents provided to the court by the Hong Kong government were irrelevant to the substance of the case and therefore were all empty, meaningless materials that have been washed clean. So it was clear that the Hong Kong government, as suggested by Mr. Xia Boyi, was not candid toward the court and had not assisted the court to uncover the facts. With unsubstantial documents, how could the court be expected to judge if the decision of the government to refuse entry was an act against human rights? Justice Hartmann said that the Hong Kong government was so insincere that the court would think it had no trust in the court. The government and judiciary in Hong Kong should respect each other and consider any case of judicial review according to law. Justice Hartmann was very disappointed at the empty and meaningless documents provided by the government lawyer, and he hoped the defense lawyer would convey the court opinion to the government.
Justice Hartmann further pointed out the fact that the defense lawyer claimed all evidence documents for entry refusal had been deleted from computers in accordance with so-called "standard procedure" less than one month after the plaintiffs were returned in February 2003. The justice said that it was against common sense for the Immigration Department to say that relevant information had all been destroyed after only a month. On the afternoon of the last day, Feng, the attorney for the government, told the justice that he could provide another "confidential document," but the justice was not impressed and could not believe that he did it on the very last day. So the justice refused to read it.
The Plaintiffs Call on the Court to Uphold "One Nation, Two Systems and Justice"
The justice will render his judgment within two months of the substantive hearings, and both the Hong Kong government and the Taiwan government, remain concerned about the outcome of the case.
Spokesperson for the plaintiffs, Ms. Zhu Wanqi, said that when the substantive hearings were over, "We were abhorred by the way in which the Hong Kong government has attempted to fool the plaintiffs and the judicial system in Hong Kong. The Falun Gong group and the people from Taiwan were disappointed by the Hong Kong government's behaviors in the court. When we return to Taiwan we will report to the presidency and the Commission on Mainland Affairs of Taiwan about the outcome of the hearings. Although the judgment is not rendered yet, the ugly face and cowardly behavior of the Hong Kong government that had attempted to cover up the CCP's meddling and the truth have been fully exposed. We hope that Justice Hartmann will be able to uphold the rule of law by sticking to 'one nation, two systems' on behalf of the Hong Kong judiciary, and give judicial justice to the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan and Falun Gong!"