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"China Shows Reporters Forbidden Camp"

by John Leicester (Associated Press, May 22, 2001)

China granted foreign reporters a controlled first glimpse Tuesday into its widely criticized ``re-education-through-labor'' system, decried by the Falun Gong for torture and abuse.
But in closely monitored conversations, inmates said they were not tortured and knew of no abuse.
The Falun Gong spiritual movement maintains that the black metal gates and gray walls of the Masanjia labor camp hide unspeakable crimes. The sect has called the camp ``a living hell,'' where guards shock female Falun Gong followers with electric batons and toss them naked into cells with male prisoners.
In an effort to dispute such claims, Chinese authorities took five foreign media organizations - including The Associated Press - on a three-hour tour Tuesday of parts of the camp, located amid rice paddies on the outskirts of Shenyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
Reporters were shown a neatly kept exercise yard where inmates dressed in blue and white track suits played basketball, a clean dining hall and kitchen where cooks used shovels to stir giant woks of food and rice, a visitation room and an office building. Reporters also were shown sections of a three-story detention center where Falun Gong practitioners sleep in dormitories with perfectly made bunk-beds and are forced to watch educational videos and attend classes aimed at breaking their allegiance to the group.
``Transformed'' followers said they now regard Falun Gong as a cult - which is how the government views the group it banned in July 1999. But other practitioners in the camp said their faith in Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi, the movement's U.S.-based founder, was unshaken.
``I still think it's good,'' said Luo Xiujie, who said she has practiced Falun Gong for five years and was sent to the camp for protesting in Beijing. She said she intends to continue practicing when she is released. ``I've benefitted from it,'' she said.
In one room, a police officer and a follower who said she has recanted pressed an elderly inmate to do the same. The elderly woman, Wang Jinlan, said she had been in the camp since October but still follows ``Master Li.''
``She will come to a realization in the end,'' said Li Qi, the former follower. ``There is hope for everyone.''
Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with its slow-motion exercises and philosophies drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and Li's ideas. Followers say it promotes health, moral living and even supernatural powers.
The government banned the group as a threat to communist rule and public safety, and thousands have been detained in the crackdown. The government accuses Li of controlling followers for his own political and financial ends.
The section of the camp for female practitioners is of one of nine in Masanjia, said its director, Zhang Chaoying. The facility, spread across 4,900 acres with fields and factories, was established 44 years ago and holds more than 3,000 inmates, he said.
He said 483 female practitioners are in the camp, although reporters saw only about a third that number.
Zhang refused to say how many Falun Gong practitioners the camp has held.
A Hong Kong-based human rights group has estimated that 10,000 practitioners have been detained in labor camps across China. Falun Gong has put the figure at 5,000. China's government-run Xinhua News Agency said in February that Masanjia alone has held 1,000 female practitioners and ``successfully re-educated'' more than 90 percent of them.
Su Jing, who heads the women's section, said inmates who violate camp rules can be placed in solitary confinement ``to make them think about what they have done.''
Falun Gong Web sites have labeled Su ``an extremely evil person.'' She was friendly during the visit, and denied inmates have been beaten, electrically shocked or forced to squat for hours in painful positions - accusations leveled in postings on Falun Gong Web sites.
Su said she and her colleagues have received threatening letters and harassing phone calls from Falun Gong practitioners. She dismissed as ``groundless fabrication'' Falun Gong claims last year that guards stripped 18 practitioners and forced them into cells with men.
``My fellow police officers and I are very angry about this,'' she said. ``Every time we redeem a Falun Gong practitioner we are attacked.''
A Falun Gong spokeswoman based in New York, Gail Rachlin, dismissed the visit as propaganda and said China had months to hide any abuses.
``There have been women in that particular (camp) as well as in others who have been persecuted and tortured, including to death, and physically abused with electric batons. Some of them can't walk for weeks,'' said Rachlin.
China says some practitioners have committed suicide in custody but none have died from mistreatment.
China's decision to allow the reporters' visit comes as Beijing is seeking support in its battle with Toronto and Paris to play host to the 2008 Summer Olympics. The 2008 host city will be named on July 13.
China has long faced international criticism for its labor camp system. The top U.N. human rights official, Mary Robinson, has urged China to abolish the camps. Chinese critics say the system is illegal and lacks oversight.
Police can send detainees to labor camps for up to three years without trial. China says its nearly 300 re-education-through-labor camps last year held 300,000 people. The number appears to be increasing: they reportedly held 230,000 people in 1997.
Two organizers of the visit said they believed China had never before allowed foreign reporters inside a camp or let them interview followers who renounced Falun Gong.
Reporters were accompanied by officials throughout the visit and were told they could not talk to inmates playing basketball or in two classrooms receiving lessons on mental health and Chinese laws.
Reporters were allowed to freely question other inmates, but officials were generally within earshot.
``I hope that all those who haven't transformed come to Masanjia,'' said Li Fu, a 50-year-old university researcher serving a two-year sentence for distributing Falun Gong pamphlets. ``Banning Falun Gong was absolutely correct.''

"Falun Gong leader says Jiang leads `evil clique' "

("Hong Kong iMail," May 22, 2001)

In his harshest attack on the Chinese government, the spiritual leader of the Falun Gong has called on members to fight against ``evil forces'' that are suppressing the sect.
Describing the Chinese leadership as ``an evil and political hooligan clique'', sect founder Li Hongzhi called Beijing's crackdown ``the most evil thing on earth''.
Li urged his followers to ``clear away the evil lives''. However, according to the movement's website (www.minghui.ca) he denied he was referring to any particular individuals or groups.
Li made the remarks in a 20-minute speech at a Falun Gong festival in Ottawa on Saturday, his first public appearance this year.
Over the past year, sect followers have launched high-profile campaigns to protest against Beijing's crackdown on the movement.
When asked to comment on Li's speech, Hong Kong Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said: ``The crackdown on the Falun Gong is conducted by some evil people with Jiang Zemin as their head.'' He said Falun Gong devotees would continue their peaceful protests to try to stop the crackdown.
Mr Kan said he hoped the new Chinese leadership - after an autumn reshuffle next year - would be open-minded and start a dialogue with the movement.
The sect was founded by Li, a former soldier who became a qigong master, in northern China in 1992. It flourished in the mid-1990s as communist ideology became less important on the mainland. But in July 1999, Beijing said the sect was an ``evil cult'' and outlawed it, three months after tens of thousands of followers besieged the Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

"HK Tung Says Falun Gong Evokes Jonestown Suicide"

by Tan Ee Lyn (Reuters, May 22, 2001)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa said the recent public suicide attempt by alleged members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in central Beijing reminded him of the Jonestown mass cult suicide in 1978.
In the clearest sign to date that Hong Kong may enact laws to curb the group, he added: "We have to protect our own people and system and we cannot afford to wait for a Jonestown-type incident before acting."
Tung made his comments in an interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Washington Times and United Press International (UPI) published on Monday.
The two groups are owned by News World Communications, set up by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, whose Unification Church has been accused of being a cult.
Tung said of Falun Gong: "It's a bit of a cult. Many have been willing to die for it and I was shocked to see cultists willing to burn themselves on Tiananmen Square."
He was referring to an apparent suicide attempt by alleged Falun Gong members in January. A mother and her daughter, 12, died after the incident.
"It is eerily reminiscent of the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana...That too was a mix of cult and politics. Obviously we're watching them very carefully here," Tung said.
More than 900 disciples of the American Reverend James Jones drank cyanide-laced Cool-Aid at his Jonestown colony in Guyana in South America in what may be the largest mass suicide in history.
Falun Gong, which claims millions of followers in more than 40 countries, denies such fanaticism and says it is a peaceful spiritual group being persecuted ruthlessly by Beijing.
The presence of Falun Gong activists in Hong Kong has posed Tung with one of his toughest challenges: pleasing Beijing while protecting the territory's special freedoms within China.
Beijing picked Tung to run Hong Kong after British rule ended in 1997. The territory retains a large degree of autonomy, and Falun Gong has remained legal although it was banned as an "evil cult" in mainland China in 1999.
But Tung is clearly uncomfortable with the group's presence and deported nearly 100 foreign members who wanted to join anti-Beijing protests this month when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited.
Curiously, Tung gave his interview on Falun Gong to two news groups owned by News World Communications Inc, which is linked to Sun Myung Moon. Moon's followers, sometimes called "Moonies," have been accused of cult-like activities.
Tung said China's banning of the Falun Gong and crackdown on members would not be a factor in Hong Kong's decision.
"Whatever we do, it will not be because of what China does or thinks."
Tung dismissed media criticism of Hong Kong's decision to deport Falun Gong members ahead of Jiang's visit to attend an international economic forum in the territory.
"We have every right to bar people who come into Hong kong solely to demonstrate and disrupt or disturb an important international economic forum," he said.
Security Secretary Regina Ip, questioned on Tuesday about the deporting of the foreign Falun Gong members, acknowledged Hong Kong keeps a "blacklist" of unwanted people.
"Every immigration department has its own list, the so-called blacklist...every government has it," Ip told legislators at a special session to discuss police actions during the forum.
"I can only say such name lists aren't static. They are often updated and the immigration director has the right to decide who can enter and who can't according to the situation."
Hong Kong officials have been criticized for deporting the Falun Gong members and their heavy security measures, enforced by some 3,000 officers, at the economic forum.
Ip met diplomats from a number of countries last week, including the United States and Australia, to address their concerns over the barring of their nationals.

"Donald accused of slowing the democratic process "

by Bryan Lee ("Hong Kong iMail," May 21, 2001)

Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming says the pace of democratic progress has slowed since Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen took over from Anson Chan Fang On-sang .
Mr Lee also dismissed the necessity of introducing an anti-cult law, saying Falun Gong leaders had yet to trigger a mass suicide pact.
On ATV World's Newsline programme last night, Mr Lee said the ``One Country, Two Systems'' policy should have been implemented better, but ``unfortunately, we can see it is going down slope''. The democratic progress was also going downhill, especially after Mr Tsang's promotion. ``In a way it's a great pity that Donald Tsang was coming in to take over from Anson. It seems to be we're departing from some of her wish-list already.
``She wanted a review - a serious review - to be conducted by the Hong Kong government and see how we should deal with the democratic election of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council. But he is now postponing it to after 2004. I think it is a great pity. Why can't we move forward?'' Mr Lee asked.
At Legco's House Committee meeting on Friday Mr Lee asked Mr Tsang how he viewed Mrs Chan's suggestion that democratic progress should be reviewed. Mr Tsang said such a review should be conducted after the Chief Executive election in 2002 and the next Legislative Council election in 2004.
Mr Lee said a law to deal with the Falun Gong was ``totally unnecessary''.
``We don't have people committing mass suicide. Why do we have a need for that ?'' he asked. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa branded the sect as ``more or less an evil cult in nature'' during a Legco meeting in February.
Mr Lee warned that if the government tabled an anti-cult law in Legco, it should first convince the community that there was such a necessity.
``You can't enact a law and restrict citizens' exercise of their freedom,'' he said.

"Falun Gong Leader Suprises Festival"

(Associated Press, May 20, 2001)

OTTAWA - The exiled founder of the Falun Gong movement made a surprise visit to an Ottawa festival where he addressed North American practitioners of the meditation movement.
Li Hongzhi arrived unannounced Saturday afternoon for the festival put on by Falun Dafa - another name for the group - and delivered a 20-minute speech in Mandarin, organizers said.
Li, who moved from China to the United States, has made only a few public appearances since Beijing banned the meditation movement in July 1999.
``I heard Master Li was coming one minute before he arrived,'' said Grace Wollensak, an Ottawa practitioner of Falun Gong. ``We didn't know he would be here, not at all.''
Organizers said nearly 1,000 people attended the weeklong festival, which included a demonstration of meditative exercises on the lawn in front of Canada's Parliament buildings.
In the speech, Li focused on his spiritual teachings, Wollensak said, but also said that Falun Gong members were facing ``vicious persecution.''
Falun Gong attracted millions in the 1990s with its mix of traditional Chinese religion, health exercises and the teachings of Li, a former government grain clerk.
Hundreds of the group's followers have been thrown in jail. Others have been tortured or sent to labor camps.
China says the movement is an evil cult, accusing it of killing some 1,600 followers by driving them insane or telling them to reject medical help.

"Falungong gains foothold in Indonesia "

("Radio Australia," May 19, 2001)

Falungong, the spiritual group banned in China as an "evil sect", says it is gaining a foothold in Indonesia.
The chairman of Indonesian Falungong Association, Joko Buntar, says there are one-thousand-500 Falungong practitioners in Indonesia.
He says followers of the group in Indonesia are free to meditate and exercise without government interference.
In China, the Falungong, which claims to have tens of millions of followers, has been the target of a government propaganda campaign.
It was banned in 1999 three months after 10,000 followers surrounded the Chinese leadership's compound in Beijing to protest against the arrests of some its members.
Mr Buntar, an ethnic-Chinese businessman in Jakarta, says the group is "warmly accepted" in Indonesia and has followers from every level of society.

"HK considers legislation over cults such as Falun Gong"

(Reuters, May 18, 2001)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong said on Friday it must consider all options, including legislation, when dealing with religious cults.
Chief Secretary Donald Tsang made the remarks amid press speculation that the government will outlaw the controversial Falun Gong spiritual movement, which has been banned in mainland China as an "evil cult."
But the movement is legal in this autonomous Special Administration Region (SAR) of China, although the local government has hit out at the group, which has been active in protesting against Beijing's crackdown.
"You talk about legislation on cults, as a responsible government, the SAR chief will have to consider all options," Tsang said in his first meeting with legislators as the territory's chief secretary.
"We must make adequate preparations so that we will not be at a loss when things do happen."
But he assured legislators that there would be full public consultation before specific legislation was prepared to ban the activities of movements such as the Falun Gong.
"But then one thing is clear. The SAR chief will have to abide by the law, and also, legislation will be based on the opinions of the public in Hong Kong. We cannot enact legislation without consulting the wider public," Tsang said.
Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to China in 1997, had taken a relaxed stance towards the Falun Gong until the group held a high-profile international conference condemning Chinese President Jiang Zemin in January.
The conference prompted Beijing to issue stern warnings that any attempt to turn Hong Kong into a centre for the Falun Gong or an anti-China base would not be tolerated.
Pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong echoed this by urging the government to consider enact a subversion law to rein in the Falun Gong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has said the group will not be allowed to exploit Hong Kong's freedoms to undermine order and stability in either the territory or China.

"Lee sees China as unstoppable"

by Arnaud de Borchgrave ("Washington Times," May 18, 2001)

SINGAPORE -- China is going to become a major player in the world and there is nothing the United States can do to prevent it, Asia´s senior statesman Lee Kuan Yew said.
The biggest threats to global stability, said Mr. Lee, will be "the challenges to the status quo from China and India" while the "tinderbox" is Islamist extremism coupled with "a Muslim nuclear weapon that will travel."
Independent Singapore´s Founding Father and a close friend of the United States for the past 40 years, Mr. Lee explained in an interview why China is now the world´s second most powerful nation.
"There is nothing" Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong have done "that China can´t do better in the years to come," Mr. Lee said. "You cannot stop [the Chinese]. Shanghai is now a city of almost 15 million and still streaming in, as well as into Shenzhen. Its new Silicon Valley is the cream of the crop. ... Take your Ivy League and West Coast universities and multiply by five and then imagine that concentrated in two cities."
Chinese generals who have talked to U.S. congressmen about the "inevitability of war" with the United States sooner or later are reflecting their own military "mind-set," not Chinese policy, he said.
"No Chinese leader can afford to work or plan on the basis of [war with the United States]," Mr. Lee said, but he made clear that China indeed would go to war if Taiwan opted for a unilateral declaration of independence.
If the United States decided to draw a line across the Taiwan Straits, Mr. Lee said, no East Asian nation believes it can be "held for very long."
"It is clear China wants to avoid conflict," Mr. Lee stated emphatically, "and go into the [World Trade Organization]. Given their size, wealth and competence, it is quite logical that they will want a bigger say in how the neighborhood is run."
"We are gradually moving toward a very different [security] system, in which China becomes the largest player on this side of the Pacific," he said. "Not suddenly, but over two or three decades."
"The Oracle of the Orient," as he has been dubbed, believes that President Bush´s statement that the United States would defend Taiwan by any means necessary encouraged Taiwan to conclude that there was no need to discuss eventual reunification with China.
The United States quickly made clear that it had not changed its "one-China" policy.
"China genuinely wants dialogue and negotiations," Mr. Lee said, but Taiwan´s governing party stands for independence and concedes only that the "one-China principle is a subject for discussion."
Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian, Mr. Lee said, "does not accept that talks with Beijing should be about how to reunite the mainland and Taiwan, even though the U.S. and all other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and all countries in the U.N., except 20, recognize one China."
China is actually helping to make Taiwan more competitive by encouraging Taiwanese investments to exploit the mainland´s cheap labor, land and resources," he said. "A more prosperous Taiwan means not just more investments in China, but an even stronger desire among a majority of Taiwanese not to upset the status quo."
But in the same interview, Mr. Lee conceded that the Taiwanese would opt for independence "if they could do so [with impunity]. ... For all intents and purposes, they have been independent since the Japanese left in 1945."
Pluralism in China? Not until the current crop of Western-educated Chinese who are now in their 20s reach political leadership age in their 60s, Mr. Lee said, though the Internet, global TV networks and globalization in general probably will shorten the time frame and bring about some form of "participatory democracy."
At first, Mr. Lee believed that Falun Gong was the same phenomenon that had sprung up in rapidly changing societies when people developed a sense of "rootlessness" and sought "eternal truths and spiritual solace."
A ranking Chinese official told Mr. Lee that Falun Gong threatened stability much the way the Boxer Rebellion did.
"Since that conversation, I must admit I have a big question mark against Falun Gong," he said. "For no rhyme or reason, they started demonstrating in Singapore. ... They caused a public disturbance and we told them to disperse. They refused, so we arrested them. Interestingly enough, most of them were Chinese mainlanders who were working in Singapore. We were then bombarded with e-mails from all over the world. So I do not believe this is simply a deep-breathing, meditating exercise. It´s a heavy breathing political exercise."
Asked about headlines in Singapore that depict the United States at odds with the rest of the world -- especially with its recent ouster from the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the International Narcotics Control Board -- Mr. Lee said U.S. unilateralism was to blame.
"There´s a growing discomfort at the unilateralism that has been accentuated since the Bush administration came to power. It was already there with [President] Clinton, but Clinton was a master wordsmith and managed to disguise his real intentions. Bush is a straight talker who speaks what´s in his mind. Even when he doesn´t intend to, it still comes out."
"People feel squatted upon," Mr. Lee explained. "and the message [to the United States] is 'enough is enough.´"
The biggest threat to global stability, Mr. Lee concluded, will be the challenges to the status quo from China and India.
After that, "I would say the [Persian] Gulf, when those regimes change over the next few years, a transition that will be aggravated by the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
"That is the real tinderbox in the foreseeable future. The Muslim nuclear weapon -- which already exists in Pakistan -- will travel to other Muslim countries in the years to come. Rational people don´t worry me. China is rational, so is India, America and Europe and the rest of the world. But not the Islamist fundamentalist extremists. I am very worried because this fanaticism is growing in Indonesia, which is next door to us."

"Sect days are few as new law nears "

("Hong Kong Mail," May 18, 2001)

The Falun Gong sect in Hong Kong has been told by the government its days are numbered as the administration is planning to enact a law to outlaw the group.
A well-informed source told the Hong Kong iMail the message had been passed to the sect through special channels shortly before the Fortune Global Forum.
``The sect understands its situation, its days are numbered,'' the source said.
The iMail reported in March that the Department of Justice had submitted a report to Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee saying the government could follow the French practice and ban ``evil cults'' under ``criminal'' rather than ``national security'' laws and that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa believed such a bill would be an effective means to handle the sect.
The most powerful provision of the law, which France is expected to endorse in June, allows the government to outlaw an organisation if a ``sister group'' has been labelled an evil cult by overseas countries. It also makes ``mental manipulation'' an offence.
It has since been reported that the Security Bureau plans to submit a copy of the French bill to the Executive Council next month for consideration, and then table it in the Legislative Council for endorsement in July before the summer recess.
Mrs Ip would not comment yesterday on the latest reports, which she described as ``speculative''.
Hong Kong Falun Gong convenor Kan Hung-cheung said such legislation would destroy religious freedom in Hong Kong.
``Intellectual and religious freedom would be harmed since the government would be given the right to dismiss any religious party,'' he said. ``I think the legislation is a way for SAR government to suppress Falun Gong activities. As we are a peaceful and lawful party, it is unnecessary for the government to legislate anti-cult laws.''
Hong Kong Christian Institute director Rose Wu Lo-sai said the law would spread fear.
``Whether you're Christian or not, it is a very dangerous move and will arouse fear among religious groups,'' Ms Wu said.
``It would give the government an excuse to ban a religious group or cult based on their own political interest - how can the Hong Kong government stand up for `one country, two systems'?''
Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan called the proposed law ``dangerous'', saying it would violate people's freedom of thought.
``It would mark the beginning of a totalitarian system,'' Mr Ho warned

"Hong Kong says not barring entry due to religion"

(Reuters, May 16, 2001)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's security chief said on Wednesday the government would not bar visitors because of their religious beliefs, but added it would closely monitor the activities of the controversial Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Secretary for Security Regina Ip made the remarks in a statement after Falun Gong followers accused local immigration officials of denying entry last week to almost 100 overseas members of the group, which is legal in the territory but banned in mainland China.
The overseas members had hoped to join protests against Beijing's crackdown on the group during a visit to the territory by Chinese President Jiang Zemin for a business conference.
The tightly-controlled protests were a rare instance of China's leaders being challenged on Chinese soil and were seen as a major test of Hong Kong's freedoms.
China has branded the group -- which espouses an eclectic mix of religions and exercises -- as an evil cult.
Ip met a number of consuls-general this week to address their concerns that their nationals had been denied entry to the territory, the statement said.
"No one was barred from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region because of their religious belief or affiliation with any group," Ip said in the statement.
The former British colony was promised a high degree of autonomy and wide freedoms since London returned it to Beijing in 1997 as a "special administrative region" of China.
Ip said it was necessary for the authorities to adopt special security measures in the run-up to the business forum to ensure the safety of political and business leaders and other guests.
"Refusal of entry of persons whose presence in Hong Kong is not considered to be in the public interest is part of the overall security strategy," Ip said.
"Our actions taken are fully consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
She said 4,800 protesters staged 56 demonstrations, including 15 rallies by some 400 Falun Gong members, ahead of and during the international business forum from May 7 to 10.
"The fact that they were able to display banners and placards expressing their dissatisfaction demonstrated beyond any doubt that the freedom of speech was fully protected and that the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" was fully implemented in Hong Kong," Ip said, referring to the formula giving it special rights after the 1997 handover.
"I want to reiterate that the government will continue to closely monitor the activities of Falun Gong. As a responsible government, we have responsible to protect order and security in society," she told reporters on the sidelines of a legislative council session.

"Sect's park challenge "

by Eddie Luk and Teny Siu ("Hong Kong Mail," May 14, 2001)

The Falun Gong, in what is seen as its boldest challenge to the government yet, announced yesterday it would conduct weekly ``spiritual exercises'' in Kowloon Park.
The announcement comes just days after the group, branded an ``evil cult'' by the government, held mass rallies in protest against President Jiang Zemin's visit to the Fortune Global Forum.
The first of the high-profile exercise sessions will be held at a playground in the park, next to the public swimming pools, between 6.30pm and 8.30pm on Wednesday.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the park, is unable to ban the activity because the group is not renting the venue.
The decision to hold weekly public exercise sessions in the heart of the tourist district comes despite warnings of a possible crackdown by senior members of the administration, including Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.
Kan Hung-cheung, a spokesman for the sect, denied the group was seeking to challenge the government, saying the move was prompted by calls from people who ``want to join the exercises''.
``As more people are willing to go outside to exercise, we plan to change locations and times to meet their needs,'' he said.
The sect had decided not to notify police of their gathering at Kowloon Park because Mr Kan estimated numbers would not exceed 50. The Public Order Ordinance requires that police be given seven days' notice for gatherings of more than 50 people.
Mr Kan was speaking after a mass exercise and rally in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday to celebrate the ninth Anniversary of World Falun Dafa Day. May 13 is the day the sect's spiritual leader Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Dafa to the mainland. The celebrations, which were expected to attract about 150 people, drew more than 300 members.
``I think more people are willing to go out and practice as they learn about the persecution of the Falun Dafa in the mainland,'' Mr Kan said.
A few people expressed concern yesterday over the sect's plans.
Tam Yuet-sim, a housewife, worried the sessions may turn the park into a ``shrine'' for the sect. ``It's okay if they do this occasionally and do not hinder other people. But they may turn the park into a base,'' she said.
Cheng Lai-Tak, a cook, said the government should not allow the group's open and regular exercise. ``Falun Gong is not an exercise that helps your health,'' he said.
But tai chi practitioner Stephen Sung Pak-man disagreed. ``About 200 people practise tai chi in Sha Tin Central Park every week. Falun Gong has the right to practise because of religious freedom,'' he said.

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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