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"Students stage protest march to nation's capital"

by Joseph Fitzgerald ("The Call," June 30, 2001)

WOONSOCKET -- Wearing vivid yellow shirts emblazoned with the words "Falun Gong," a group of young Chinese students passed City Hall on Main Street carrying a banner that read: "Stop the Killing in China." Greeted with quizzical looks from passersby, the students were traveling through Woonsocket on Thursday as part of a nationwide walk from Boston to Washington D.C. to raise awareness regarding China's human rights abuses against practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditation sect targeted by the Chinese government as a subversive threat since 1999
"This is a very peaceful protest and our goal is awareness," said Meng Yang-Jian of Boston, one of five Falun Gong practitioners in the group undertaking the 450-mile walk to Washington D.C. where more than a thousand Falun Gong practitioners are expected to gather on July 20.
In one hand, Jian holds a picture of Wang Lixuan, a 30-year-old Falun Gong practitioner, and her 8-month-old-son, Meng, both of whom died in a Chinese labor camp.
According to the Falun Gong Human Rights Update, a weekly newsletter reporting on human rights abuses against Falun Gong, Lixuan and her baby were tortured to death in police custody on Nov. 7, 2000. The coroner's examination revealed that Ms. Wang's neck and skull had been crushed. Her son's ankles had deep bruises presumably from being hung upside down by handcuffs. There were also bruises around his head and blood in his nose.
Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese exercise that improves health, reduces stress and increases energy. The practice involves slow, gentle movements of the body, while teaching the principals of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance. Similar to Tai Chi and other popular practices, Falun Gong is easy to learn, enjoyable to do and enhances practitioners spiritually, mentally and physically.
Falun Gong was brought to the public in 1992 and became popular through word of mouth due to its many benefits. So far, Falun Gong has attracted over 70 million people around the world. Some people do the exercise alone, while others meet in parks to do the five exercises together.
While Falun Gong has received overwhelming support from the U.S. Congress, other governments and human rights groups, it remains a target of suppression by the communist regime in China.
"The totalitarian government, which rejects freedom of conscience, expression and assembly, groundlessly felt threatened by the growing number of Chinese who regularly do the ancient exercises. This led to the government's crackdown beginning in July of 1999," says a fact sheet prepared by the Falun Dafa Informational Center.
In the past year, the organization says, at least 50,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been detained, over 10,000 sent to labor camps without trial, hundreds sentenced to prison terms up to 18 years, and more than 1,000 illegally imprisoned in mental hospitals where they suffer through forced injections and psychological torture. To date, more than 200 practitioners have died as a result of police brutality.
"In China there is no way to speak out and our voices can't be heard there," says walker Hao Wang, a high school sophomore from Boston. "This is our way of speaking out for those who can't."
According to Wang, those who practice Falun Gong worldwide, as well as international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are calling for an open dialogue between the Chinese Government and its citizens who practice Falun Gong.

"HK anniversary marred by unemployment, rights woes"

by Tan Ee Lyn (Reuters, June 29, 2001)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong marks the fourth anniversary of its reunion with China on Sunday but spirits have been dampened by rising unemployment, falling incomes and fears that promises of autonomy from communist rule have been eroded.
A low-key flag-raising ceremony will open the day, with the territory's Beijing-chosen leader Tung Chee-hwa and some 500 government officials looking on but no senior representative from the mainland.
A no-frills cultural show, reflecting the city's austere mood, will be staged in the evening, in sharp contrast to the extravaganzas and fireworks at the time of the handover.
The territory's vocal pro-democracy groups plan rallies to call for direct elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2002 and better welfare for the territory's poor.
Concern over whether Hong Kong will continue to enjoy the high level of autonomy promised by China has prompted the United States to draft a fresh report on the territory. The report is expected to be released within about a month.
But most of Hong Kong's seven million people are more worried about their pocket books than any erosion of civil rights since the end of more than 150 years of British rule in July 1997.
"Most people are very worried about the economy. They are suffering from negative equity, unemployment, and middle-aged people face great difficulty finding jobs," said Li Pang-kwong, associate professor of politics at Lingnan University.
Still fragile after Asia's deep financial crisis in 1997-1999, Hong Kong is now suffering from the weakening global economy.
An array of businesses from restaurants to retailers have closed, pushing up unemployment to 4.6 percent and casting a pall of reunification celebrations.
Household incomes of lower-income groups have fallen 30 percent in the last four years to HK$4,500 (US$577) a month, and middle-income families live on HK$17,000, down five percent.
"Poverty and unemployment are our biggest problems," said activist Leung Kwok-hung, who will head a protest on the fringe of the flag-raising ceremony to press for more welfare.
Tung, reviled by human rights groups and largely unpopular with the public, is likely to face another barrage of criticism from pro-democracy activists for what they perceive as his kowtowing to Beijing.
"He persistently sells out Hong Kong to be in Beijing's good books," said Law Yuk-kai of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.
Tung compromised judicial independence in 1999 when he asked Beijing to overturn a ruling by Hong Kong's highest court, which had backed residency rights for children born to local residents.
Tung said he feared the Hong Kong court's ruling would lead to an influx of as many as 1.67 million mainland immigrants who had at least one parent in Hong Kong.
He triggered an uproar recently when he echoed Beijing in branding the controversial Falun Gong spiritual group as an "evil cult," which human rights and religious groups fear could be a prelude to banning it. The group is already outlawed in China.
He also has promoted a bill that grants Beijing the power to sack future Hong Kong leaders. It goes to the rubber-stamp legislature on July 11.
"(It's) an invitation to interfere. A timebomb," Law said.

"Falun Gong foe goes free after learning lesson"

by Kelly Sinoski ("Hong Kong iMail," June 27, 2001)

An anti-Falun Gong businessman, who staged an hour-long stand-off in court two weeks ago, meekly asked a High Court judge yesterday to free him from his two-month prison sentence.
Lee Wai-kui also gave Deputy High Court Judge Edward Woolley an undertaking that he would refrain from publishing or printing further pamphlets, addressed to ``All citizens of Hong Kong'', allegedly defaming Hotel Dynamics Ltd.
``I have now learned my lesson,'' Lee said. ``I was wrong in thinking they are such type of people, the Falun Gong. I was very wrong in my thinking, so I've promised them I will bite my lips forever.'' Mr Justice Woolley agreed to suspend Lee's sentence for contempt of court provided he complied with an interim injunction granted to Hotel Dynamics last February until the case goes to trial.
The company had claimed in court earlier this month that Lee had breached the injunction by sending faxes containing the alleged defamatory material to five hotels, including Holiday Inn Golden Mile, Park Lane, Eaton and Great Eagle.
Lee had previously worked at Park Lane but was sacked in 1999.
He said yesterday the faxes had been sent by part-time marketing students working for him, but he had dismissed them last week for fear they would do it again.
``I admit I knew what they were doing but I was definitely guilty of not preventing them from doing so for my own selfish private interests,'' Lee said.
Chaos erupted in the High Court on June 14 when Lee was found guilty of contempt. He refused to leave the courtroom, saying he would rather die than go to prison.
Bailiffs and police officers swarmed the 10th floor of the building and escorted Lee to jail as he left the court after an hour-long stand-off during which he claimed he was punched by a solicitor.
Lee had protested, claiming the judge's order was a travesty of justice and that he should not be punished for his personal beliefs concerning the Falun Gong.
Hotel Dynamics is claiming unspecified damages from Lee for alleged defamation.

"Falun Gong protests mark day dedicated to torture victims"

by Nelson Lee ("Hong Kong iMail," June 27, 2001)

Drenched Falun Gong members staged two protests yesterday at the height of an amber rainstorm warning.
As the rain poured down, they accused President Jiang Zemin of covering up ``rampant human rights abuse''.
The protests were held to mark United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
About 100 adherents of the qigong sect performed their exercises outside the Central Government Liaison Office in Western District at 2.15pm, while 130 massed in Chater Garden at 3.30pm.
``In the face of international criticism Jiang Zemin's regime has not shown remorse or concern. Instead, it has made a policy of denial and doubled its efforts to cover up its rampant human rights abuses against Falun Gong,'' said Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa spokesman Kan Hung-cheung.
``Jiang Zemin's campaign against the Falun Gong has been from day one in direct violation of China's own constitution and the international human rights treaties China has signed.''
He said that since July 1999, more than 200 mainland practitioners had died under torture while another 50,000 followers had been arrested.
He said a new legal document had opened the way for harsher punishment, including the death penalty, against sect members.
``Explanations of Some Questions About the Law'', issued on June 11, said mainland courts could prosecute Falun Gong practitioners for murder or intentional wounding if they organised, encouraged or helped others to commit suicide or injure themselves.
Protesters at the Liaison Office tried to present a petition addressed to Premier Zhu Rongji, but it was rejected.

"HK Falungong claims 233 followers' death in Chinese custody"

(The Independent, June 26, 2001)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong followers of the Falungong spiritual group called Tuesday on Beijing to stop torturing mainland practitioners, claiming 233 of them had died in custody, reports AFP.
Falungong spokeswoman Sophie Xiao said the death toll among followers of the quasi-Buddhist sect had reached an "alarming stage" with at least 20 reported to have died in police custody last month alone.
This brought to 233 the number of deaths since Falungong was outlawed as an "evil cult" on the mainland almost two years ago, she said from Hong Kong, where the sect remains legal.
"We hope to bring to people's attention to the inhumanity suffered by Falungong followers in China to mark the UN international day in support of victims of torture," on Monday, said Xiao.
"We again call for global help to eradicate torture and inhumanity of Falungong practitioners on the mainland," she said. To highlight their concerns, around 100 practitioners staged a meditation exercise outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong.
They also prepared a petition to Chinese president Jiang Zemin calling on him to stop torture.
"The brutality is beyond people's imagination and the methods used in torture is beyond the limit people can endure," said Xiao, citing the use of water torture as well as electrocution and sexual abuse.
Xiao spoke of a case in which a mother and her eight-month old son from the northeastern province of Shandong died after being allegedly tortured in a labour camp in Beijing.
"The mother suffered a crushed neck and skull, while the baby had bruises on his ankles after being hung outside down," Xiao claimed.
Xiao also said there had been reports of torture methods such as Falungong practitioners being tied to motorcycles and dragged until they died, as well as sexual abuse against female sect followers. Mainland authorities consider Falungong -- which advocates clean living and daily meditative exercise -- the biggest threat to Communist Party rule since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations which were crushed in Tiananmen Square.
According to figures compiled by human rights groups, since the mainland ban was imposed around 120 Falungong followers have died in police custody with hundreds of sect leaders jailed and thousands of adherents sent to labour camps.
There have been reports Falungong could also be banned soon in Hong Kong after the territory's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa also referred to it as an "evil cult".

"Falun Gong protests in HK against China crackdown"

(Reuters, June 26, 2001)

HONG KONG - Followers of the controversial Falun Gong spiritual movement rallied in heavy rain in Hong Kong on Tuesday and urged the United Nations to conduct an independent probe into China's crackdown on the group.
Clad in yellow t-shirts bearing the slogan "China, stop persecuting Falun Gong," about 100 members of the group sat in lotus positions and meditated for an hour outside Beijing's Liaison Office in the territory's western district.
A spokeswoman for the group said it wanted the United Nations to set up an independent investigation into the crackdown on its members in mainland China, where the movement is banned and branded an "evil cult."
To mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the group also held a separate photo exhibition showing what they said were injuries inflicted by Chinese police.
In a petition letter which they left outside the Liaison Office, they urged Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to end the persecution.
Despite the mainland ban, the movement has remained legal in Hong Kong. The former British colony was promised a high degree of autonomy when it reverted to Chinese rule in mid-1997.
But the territory's leader Tung Chee-hwa recently called the Falun Gong in Hong Kong an "evil cult," echoing Beijing for the first time.
The Falun Gong said 233 practitioners have been tortured to death in China so far this year versus 22 in the same period last year. At least 10 members had died in police custody in the past week, it said.

"Spiritual Society or Evil Cult?" by John Leicester ("TimeAsia," June 25, 2001)

Not much is known about Li Hongzhi, 48, the man who created Falun Gong in 1992. He worked as a grain clerk in northeast China's Liaoning province. He played trumpet in a troupe run by the forestry police in neighboring Jilin. And then he wrote a very odd book that affected millions.
Li's rambling dissertation, Zhuan Falun, has only added to accusations that Falun Gong is a cult. Li writes he can personally heal disease and that his followers can stop speeding cars using the powers of his teachings. He writes that the Falun Gong emblem exists in the bellies of practitioners, who can see through the celestial eyes in their foreheads. Li believes "humankind is degenerating and demons are everywhere"-extraterrestrials are everywhere, too-and that Africa boasts a 2-billion-year-old nuclear reactor. He also says he can fly.
Wacky, perhaps. But is Falun Gong a cult? Not necessarily, if classic characteristics of cults are taken into account. A reckoning:

Typical Cult Techniques Falun Gong's Record
Exerts tremendous pressure on people to join NO
Fosters an us-versus-them approach to life YES
Believers remove themselves from society NO
Uses jargon that outsiders don't understand YES
Believers required to donate large sums of money NO
Led by a charismatic master YES

"Faces of Falun Gong remembered"

by Karen Rivedal ("Chicago Tribune," June 24, 2001)

With white flowers, solemn music and a long, slow march to the Chinese consulate at Clark and Erie Streets, about 400 Falun Gong practitioners from the U.S. and Canada on Saturday marked the second anniversary of China's crackdown on the spiritual sect.
"We want to call attention to how horrible the persecution in China is," said Stephen Gregory, a South Shore resident and Falun Gong practitioner who works as an administrator at the University of Chicago. "If people in the United States will speak out, then Chinese behavior will change."<> Leaders of the group, in Chicago for a two-day regional conference, accused Chinese government officials of killing seven sect members last week in China, bringing to 229 the number of known deaths of practitioners in China since the group was outlawed in July 1999.
Another 10,000 may be held in labor camps, mental institutions and jails, Gregory said, echoing estimates from foreign governments and human-rights organizations that have monitored the sect since it was founded in 1992.
China denies reports of mistreatment, though officials have acknowledged that some adherents have died of disease or committed suicide after being detained. The government has called the sect an evil cult, an anti-socialist movement and most recently, Gregory said, a "reactionary political force" that wants to overthrow the communist government.
"We have to expect that for the moment things will only get more violent and more brutal," Gregory said.
Chinese officials defending the ban have attributed more than 1,600 deaths to the Falun Gong movement, allegedly from its beliefs about healing of illness and spiritual enlightenment.
The practitioners in Chicago on Saturday, most of whom were born in China and are living in the U.S. as students, legal residents or naturalized citizens, described Falun Gong as a peaceful, inward-looking practice based on truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
Many of the demonstrators wore yellow T-shirts and carried banners emblazoned with group slogans. They also carried white flowers to signify mourning for those killed or imprisoned.
For more than an hour, practitioners demonstrated their faith by meditating in Federal Plaza in the Loop. The people sat cross-legged in 15 long rows, eyes closed, their bodies still but for slow arm movements that separated positions held for long moments.
"It's a cultivation practice, a spiritual practice," said Warren H. Tai, an executive vice president at the International Bank of Chicago. "We meditate, we get healthier, we try to become better people."

"We'll do nothing on Falun Gong"

by Benedict Rogers ("Hong Kong iMail," June 22, 2001)

Doing nothing is Hong Kong's way of dealing with the Falun Gong, Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen disclosed yesterday.
``We are dealing with Falun Gong by not dealing with Falun Gong - that is the Hong Kong way,'' he said in the most candid description of the government's policy so far.
Mr Tsang appeared to distance himself from Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's statement last week describing Falun Gong as ``an evil cult'', by saying that it was ``immaterial'' how Falun Gong described itself.
What mattered, he argued, was that Hong Kong was run by the rule of law, ``and nothing less''.
Falun Gong and democratisation, were, Mr Tsang said, ``peculiarly Hong Kong issues'' that had to be dealt with in a ``Hong Kong way''. The Hong Kong way, he explained, meant doing nothing.
``The Hong Kong way means it is different from the mainland way. We do it our own way, within our own rule of law, and that is what we have been doing.''
Falun Gong members, he said, were able to practise their exercises freely every day. ``Nobody bothers them if they are going to continue with their breathing exercises,'' Mr Tsang told a lunch at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.
Mr Tsang said the question of anti-cult legislation was a rumour. ``We are not legislating,'' he said.
Hong Kong's freedom, he added, was ``non-negotiable'', and the rule of law must be preserved.
In an echo of remarks last month in which he said his Catholic beliefs guided his definition of a cult, Mr Tsang said there were differing views on what constituted a cult.
``You have your own definition, Mr Tung has his own definition, the Buddhists have one, the Catholics have another, the Christians have other things. But this is the beautiful thing about Hong Kong,'' he said.
In a free society like Hong Kong, he said, ``it is natural for people to have different views on what a cult is and what an evil cult is''.
But, he added, regardless of whether Falun Gong is ``a cult, and whether it is evil or not'', the most important thing is that in Hong Kong ``religion is totally free''.
Although Mr Tung and Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee had said there were no immediate plans to legislate, Mr Tsang was more direct.
``I think there is no need for us to speculate on what we are going to do but we are not legislating.''
Mr Tsang ruled out a public meeting with Falun Gong leaders, saying that would ``not be conducive to dialogue'', but admitted that officials were in contact with Falun Gong representatives..
``Our colleagues have been talking to them ... What is conducive to the dialogue is quiet chats about what you are here for, what you are doing and what you are going to do. I believe that's taking place between my colleagues and some of the Falun Gong practitioners here,'' Mr Tsang said.
``I think we make things better by dealing with it in a discreet and quiet manner.''
However, an official said later that contact with Falun Gong related only to arrangements for protests and public events, and not negotiations over policy.
This was echoed by Falun Da Fa convenor Kan Hung-cheung who said there had never been any meeting, private or open. ``We have not met with any government officials so far, we have only contacted the police and officials from Leisure and Cultural Services Department,'' he said.
On ``one country, two systems'', the Chief Secretary said he regarded it as part of his mission to ``foster a greater sense of understanding'' in Hong Kong and the mainland.
``I believe this is the best way to increase its effectiveness and protect its integrity,'' he said. ``Safeguarding our system is the key to its success. Hong Kong people cherish their freedom.''
There was a mixed reaction to Mr Tsang's comments from legislators. ``It is quite obvious that what Mr Tung said represented the government's position,'' said Tsang Yok-sing, the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong.
Independent Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee could not accept Mr Tsang's explanation.
``Mr Tung made the statement at Legco's question-and-answer session, not a tea gathering. I can't see it as a personal view,'' she said.
The Frontier's Cyd Ho Sau-lan felt that Mr Tsang's comments were aimed at helping Mr Tung fend off critics.

"Freed Falun Gong member back in Canada from China"

(Reuters, June 21, 2001)

MONTREAL - A Canadian-based member of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, detained for more than a month in China, returned to Montreal early on Thursday, a Canadian spokeswoman for the movement said.
Zhu Ying, a 35-year-old permanent resident of Canada, was arrested on May 10 after crossing into mainland China from Hong Kong, where she had taken part in a meeting of Falun Gong members, a movement outlawed by China, which brands it as an evil cult trying to overthrow the Communist government.
Friends and relatives did not hear from Zhu following her arrest, and attempts by Ottawa to get information from the Chinese government were unsuccessful, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department said. Because Zhu is not a Canadian citizen, Ottawa could only ask for the co-operation of Chinese authorities.
"We are happily surprised by her return," said Cindy Ju, a Toronto-based spokeswoman for the Falun Gong movement, which blends Taoism and Buddhism with traditional physical exercises.
"The only reason she was arrested is because she was a Falun Gong member and the only reason she was released is because of the Canadian campaign to free her," Ju said.
Zhu is supposed to hold a press conference in Montreal on Friday. She could not be reached on Thursday. "I talked to her and she is very tired, she will be available tomorrow," Ju said.

"China blamed for Falun Gong death"

(CNN, June 21, 2001)

BEIJING, China -- Police in China beat to death a handicapped follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect, the group said Thursday.
Zhang, a 38-year-old laid-off factory worker, walked with a cane.
He died three days after he was dragged from his home in Shuangcheng, a city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, the group said in a statement from the United States.
An official at the Shuangcheng detention center confirmed that Zhang was dead, but said he died of illness after going on a hunger strike.
"One thing for sure is that he was not beaten to death. I can't tell more details," said the official, who would not give his name.
Police refused requests for comment.
The Falun Gong said Zhang had been harassed by police and local officials and detained several times.
He was declared dead on arrival at a hospital emergency room June 12.
His family was not informed until the next day and forbidden to view his body or have an autopsy performed, the Falun Gong said.
The location of his remains is unknown, the group added.
Fatal measures
Zhang is the first Falun Gong member reported dead since Chinese authorities announced harsher punishment for practitioners.
Rules published June 10 allow courts to try followers who spread information about Falun Gong for subversion, separatism, and leaking state secrets -- all crimes punishable by death.
The Falun Gong said Zhang's death brought to 224 the number of followers who have died in police custody since China launched a crackdown on the group nearly two years ago.
Other independent sources say more than 100 have died.
China says some followers committed suicide in custody, but denies abuses.
Falun Gong attracted millions of members during the 1990s by mixing traditional Chinese exercises with hybrid oriental philosophy.
China calls the group an evil cult and outlawed it in July 1999.
Dodging the crackdown
Public protests by sect followers in Beijing's Tiananmen Square have grown increasingly rare, since harsh suppression measures were imposed.
Practitioners protesting in Beijing have routinely been kicked, punched, dragged across the ground and thrown into police vans in view of Chinese and foreign tourists.
But adherents have continued to anger officials by stuffing mailboxes with their literature, spraying graffiti supporting the group, and posting information online, including the names and phone numbers of police and prison officers whom they accuse of abusing and killing practitioners.
The government has been trying to counter negative reports on its crackdown by taking foreign reporters on tours of labor camps were members are detained.
The camps are invariably clean and their inmates passive. Wardens deny abusing followers.

"US, UK pressure HK over Falun Gong"

("Business Times," June 21, 2001)

The United States and Britain are said to have put pressure on the Hong Kong government not to ban the Falun Gong movement in the territory.
Sources told BT the two governments have signalled to the Tung Chee-hwa administration 'in the strongest terms' that any ban on Falun Gong would effectively spell the death of the 'One Country, Two Systems', as Hong Kong would then be just another Chinese city.
Diplomatic pressures are said to have built up after Mr Tung declared last week that Falun Gong was 'an evil cult'.
The US and Britain are also said to be considering retaliatory measures. In the case of the US, this could include a reassessment of trade links with mainland China.
The British government is also said to have issued through informal channels a stern warning that it would initiate measures that will severely hurt Hong Kong's international image and signal a political fallout between Hong Kong and its former colonial master.
But some of America's allies - particularly in Europe - are not too keen on supporting these measures.
The Falun Gong movement, banned in the mainland, has been a political minefield which has plagued the Tung administration for months as the international community watched the principle of One Country, Two Systems being put to its greatest test to date.
Not since the controversial right of abode case, where Beijing was asked to interpret certain provisions of the Basic Law, has the territory been faced with a bigger threat to the survival of the 'Great Concept' laid down by the late paramount leader Deng Xiao-ping.
Faced with conflicting demands from different factions, Mr Tung is in an almost no-win situation as he attempts to balance perceived demands from his Beijing political masters and his Hong Kong constituents as well as international opinion.
In February, he said Falun Gong was 'more or less' a cult. Last month, he described them as 'a bit of a cult'. In his remarks to lawmakers last week, he cut out all ambiguity and declared the group an 'evil cult'.
But for now, the Hong Kong leader is unlikely to take the step of outlawing the group which practises deep-breathing exercises most of the time, although members do take part in public demonstrations to protest against persecutions of their members in the mainland.
Observers feel an outright ban would have too high a political cost on Mr Tung.
'Pressure is not just coming from the north but also from across the Pacific,' said one political watcher here. 'With China at the doorstep of WTO and when passage of NTR (normal trading relations) is hanging in the balance, I believe our masters will take a more moderate stand, for the time being at least.'
Any decision by Mr Tung may also have a huge impact on the jittery relations between China and the new US administration, fresh from the recent ugly spy plane incident.
Despite his statement last week, Mr Tung has also indicated he will not be enacting anti-cult laws soon. In fact, the Hong Kong government is not expected to carry out any concrete measures other than uttering the usual rhetoric to pacify its Beijing masters.
One observer said: 'Most Hongkongers do appreciate that we are living under the shadow of China and would not quibble with any measures justified by concrete evidence that the religious movement is indeed aiming to destabilise Hong Kong. Perhaps everyone is holding their breath for Falun Gong to step out of line.'
Until that happens, Mr Tung has little room to manoeuvre. He has already suffered a huge political setback over the issue.
In the past week, the chief executive has come under sharp criticism from not just the liberals for his hardline statements on the movement but also from pro-Beijing figures who claimed he has been too indecisive for too long.
It has also been reported that Beijing has not been too happy with Mr Tung's handling of the issue, although the Chinese leaders, including President Jiang Zemin, have opted not to comment openly on the issue in Hong Kong.
Some analysts cite the high-profile activities of Falun Gong as one of the main factors that led to the departure of former chief secretary Anson Chan who was popularly seen as the defender of democracy in Hong Kong.

What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne


Anti-Cult Law in France - Index Page

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