Hong Kong Court Quashes Falun Gong Convictions


2005.05.05
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April 4, 2005: Hong Kong Falun Gong practitioners meditate with banners outside the Final Appeals court in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP/Samantha Sin

HONG KONG—Hong Kong’s highest court has quashed convictions of eight followers of the Falun Gong movement for obstructing and assaulting police during a 2002 protest, in a case seen as a key test of the judicial independence in the Chinese-run territory.

"The Hong Kong court set a very good example that will give Hong Kong citizens, including Falun Gong members, sufficient safeguards for them to make petitions and appeals,” Jian Hongzhang, Falun Gong spokesman in Hong Kong, told RFA’s Cantonese service.

The case had raised fears about threats to personal freedoms in Hong Kong, promised a high degree of autonomy after Britain returned it to China in 1997. Falun Gong is banned in mainland China but remains legal in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong court set a very good example that will give Hong Kong citizens, including Falun Gong members, sufficient safeguards for them to make petitions and appeals,

The Court of Final Appeal said the freedom to demonstrate peacefully was protected by Hong Kong's constitution. “Those freedoms are at the heart of Hong Kong's system and the courts should give them a generous interpretation,” it said.

The eight Falun Gong followers were convicted by a lower court in 2002 of obstructing police during a protest against Beijing earlier that year. They were fined between U.S. $170 and U.S. $490 each. Two were convicted of assaulting police.

These were the first such convictions against Falun Gong in the Chinese territory, sparking fears that Beijing’s crackdown on the group was expanding to Hong Kong.

"We noticed that the court said in its decision that this is not a criticism of the Hong Kong police, but rather that the police showed their professionalism in this situation,” the head of Hong Kong’s Security Bureau, Li Shaoguang, said.

China's leaders outlawed the group after 10,000 of its members surrounded the Communist Party's sacrosanct leadership compound in Beijing in 1999 in a peaceful protest, shocking Party leaders.

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