Wed, Sep 21, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Falun Gong practitioners go to court in Hong Kong

AP , HONG KONG

Four Taiwanese followers of the spiritual group Falun Gong went to court in Hong Kong yesterday, claiming the government violated their religious freedom by denying them entry into the city two years ago.

The Falun Gong practitioners alleged the Hong Kong government was cooperating with China's crackdown on the group, which Beijing has labeled an "evil cult" and has banned.

"We didn't pose any threat to Hong Kong ... We didn't bring in anything illegal. There are no grounds for the explanation of security concerns," Theresa Chu (朱婉琪), one of the followers, told reporters.

Legal proceedings in the case began yesterday in Hong Kong's High Court.

Falun Gong, which combines slow-motion exercises with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, remains legal in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, a former British colony governed separately from China and promised Western-style civil liberties.

The Taiwanese followers were among 80 who were barred from entering Hong Kong in February 2003 to attend a Falun Gong conference.

Chu said they were told they couldn't enter because of unspecified security reasons.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau declined to comment on the case.

"As the court proceeding is now underway, it is inappropriate for us to comment," a bureau statement said.

Chu said she and her fellow followers believe they were targeted for their Falun Gong background because they had been allowed to visit Hong Kong previously when their travel plans were unrelated to Falun Gong.

Chu contended that the denial of entry violated provisions in Hong Kong's mini-constitution, or Basic Law (基本法), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protecting religious freedom.

Another one of the banned followers, Chang Jenn-yeu (張震宇), said Hong Kong officials were physically rough when they forced the followers to board a flight back to Taiwan.

It was unclear how the followers had entered Hong Kong for the trial.

Falun Gong claims hundreds of its followers have died in Chinese police custody. China has denied torture but says some died after hunger strikes or refused medical help.

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