Tung's arbitrary criteria after 'detailed consideration'
HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
15 June 2001
The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor regrets that the Chief Executive, Mr Tung
Chee-hwa even after giving "detailed consideration" to the issue has failed
to come up with objective criteria for determining what is an evil cult. He
nevertheless recklessly decided to brand the Falun Gong an 'evil cult'. The
Human Rights Monitor is gravely concerned that this type of arbitrary
attack, by the head of the SAR, on a lawful society and faith are
unwarranted and undermines 'one-country, two systems'. It represents a
serious breach of the Basic Law and internationally guaranteed rights and
exemplifies a growing trend of religious and political intolerance within
the upper ranks of the Government.
In 1999, Beijing branded the Falun Gong an "evil cult". Unfortunately, that
makes it one in the SAR too under Mr Tung's 'rule'. In February of this
year, Mr Tung said that the Falun Gong "more or less bears some
characteristics of an evil cult". Last month, in an interview with United
Press International he said "it's a bit of a cult". Yesterday, Mr Tung said
"No doubt, the Falun Gong is an evil cult." There is no cogent reason for
the initial 'branding' or for the subsequent strengthening of the attack on
the group. On the contrary, during this time the Falun Gong has been acting
peacefully and within the laws of the SAR, as they have since they
registered as a society in Hong Kong. Therefore, the only plausible reason
for Mr Tung's escalating attacks is to appease Beijing, which recently
stepped up its repression of the Falun Gong.
Mr Tung stated that the Falun Gong are "tightly and strictly organized, its
financial sources are very abundant and it is an organization having
political characteristics." If these are the criteria for an evil cult,
then the Government must brand the Catholic Church, as well as other
organizations, evil cults. Such criteria are totally arbitrary and it was
irresponsible for Mr Tung make such a statement.
Most effective organizations would aspire to the first two characteristics.
It is generally accepted that when necessary organizations will engage in a
political manner to combat the oppression or repression of its members.
This is a totally legitimate response. It is illogical how any of these
characteristics, or all three taken together, result in the Falun Gong being
an evil cult. Besides this, his statement is completely unjustified.
What is the problem with being tightly and strictly organized? Followers
may come together for specific events and to support each other. This is
true of most religious, as well as international organizations.
What is the relevance of their financial position? Certainly, the amount of
money a group has does not have any bearing on the legality or morality of
their conduct. The Catholic Church is one of the richest organizations in
the world. Does Mr Tung consider it an evil cult?
Moreover, the Falun Gong is clearly not a political organization as defined
in the Societies Ordinance (Cap 151), which defines 'political body' as:
"(a) a political party or an organization that purports to be a political
(b) an organization whose principle function or main object is to promote or
prepare a candidate for an election."
The Falun Gong does not meet either of these criteria and therefore cannot
be considered a political organization.
When Mr Tung was asked if he had substantial proof that the sect is an evil
cult he stated "you will come to the same conclusion as me if you see how
people burned themselves in Tiananmen Square and what their beliefs are."
This position ignores several facts. First, although people have set
themselves alight in Hong Kong (i.e. the tragedy in front of Immigration
Tower last year) no action of this type has been taken or threatened by the
Falun Gong in Hong Kong. Second, no additional acts have occurred,
therefore, there is no reason for the Government to strengthen its position.
Third, the Falun Gong claims that the persons involved in the January event
were not Falun Gong followers. Fourth, and most importantly, the 'doctrine'
of the Falun Gong does not advocate any type of violence. Hence, Mr Tung's
reasoning and supposed 'substantial proof' is severely flawed.
Moreover, although Hong Kong abolished suicide as a crime in 1967, there are
laws in Hong Kong to address various criminal activities, including those
that Mr Tung seems to attribute to an evil cult. For example, the Offences
Against the Person Ordinance (Cap 212) Section 19 makes it a crime to
unlawfully or maliciously wound or inflict bodily harm on a person.
Additionally, Section 33B of the ordinance makes it a crime to aid, abet,
counsel or procure the suicide of another. Surely no additional legislation
is necessary in this area.
The Human Rights Monitor believes the Falun Gong followers have done nothing
more than exercise their rights as guaranteed by the Basic Law. The Basic
Law guarantees the freedom of speech, association, assembly, demonstration,
conscience, religious belief and freedom to conduct and participate in
religious activities in public. Article 39 of the Basic Law stipulates that
the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), which includes rights similar to those under the Basic Law, will
continue to apply to Hong Kong. The Human Rights Monitor calls on Mr Tung
to stand up for the rights of the residents of the SAR instead of making
continual attacks on the group that are unjustified and puerile. They are
an obvious ploy to gain favor with Beijing.
HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
Room 603, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace, Car Po Commercial Building, Central, Hong
Phone: (852) 2811-4488 Fax: (852) 2802-6012
Chairperson: Rev Chu Yiu Ming
Deputy Chair: Philip Dykes, S.C.,Q.C. Raymond Tsui
Secretary: Winnie Kwok Treasurer: Lai Wing Yiu
Director: Law Yuk-kai Researcher: Nancy Stafford
Andrew Byrnes Johannes Chan Paul Harris
Ho Hei Wah John Kamm Christine Loh
Charles Mok Phillip Ross Stephen Ng