Sun, Jan 14, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Falun Gong protests in Hong Kong

PERSECUTION Members of the sect held their biggest gathering in the territoy since being banned in China, to protest against that country's oppression of the group

REUTERS , HONG KONG

Falun Gong meditation sect followers sit at Hong Kong's Victoria Park yesterday, in a formation that makes the Chinese characters for, from left to right, "truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance."

PHOTO: AP

Defying vehement criticism from Beijing, about 900 Falun Gong followers from around the world protested in Hong Kong yesterday against China's crackdown on the movement.

But immigration authorities barred the entry of 12 overseas Chinese adherents who were to attend the meeting in the former British colony, now a "special administrative region" of China, a human rights group said.

Some 900 practitioners, about half from overseas, kicked off a two-day gathering with a mass exercise in a public park, their largest in Hong Kong since Beijing began its crackdown on Falun Gong in July 1999.

Dressed in uniform-style yellow T-shirts, the group sat silently meditating for an hour to the sound of soft music playing through loudspeakers.

They then marched silently to Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, holdings placards which read "Stop Persecuting Falun Gong." Police presence was light.

Leading the procession were 120 people dressed in white -- a mourning color for Chinese -- and holding photographs of 120 Falun Gong adherents that the group claimed had died of torture during custody in mainland China.

Falun Gong is a mixture of, Buddhism and traditional Chinese physical exercises.

China has outlawed the movement which it labels an "evil cult." But Falun Gong is legal in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement in Beijing that Hong Kong had barred the entry of 12 overseas Chinese followers.

Seven were from Japan, three from Australia and two from the US, it said. Most were detained on Friday.

An Australian resident and a US resident had already been put on an aircraft home yesterday morning but the rest were still being held, the group said.

It said authorities had given no explanation for the action and were preparing to deport the rest. The Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases.

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