SCMP Thursday, February 8, 2001

Tung warns Falun Gong against disturbance


Last updated at 6.15pm:
Falun Gong members will have their activities scrutinised by the Government, but Hong Kong's social freedoms will remain protected, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said on Thursday.
Mr Tung said the Falun Gong had some of the characteristics of an ''evil cult''. It needed to be closely watched to guarantee the stability of Hong Kong and the mainland.
Mr Tung also expressed personal distaste for demonstrations by the cult said to include a mother taking her daughter to Tiananmen Square where they both set themselves on fire, but emphasised that local society was governed by the rule of law.
''I was shocked by the incident,'' he told the Legislative Council during a question and answer session which he began with a 15-minute speech.
''I certainly hope such incidents will not happen in Hong Kong and I believe that the people of Hong Kong share this view.'' The Falun Gong movement - banned as an ''evil cult'' on the mainland has denied its members have attempted suicide for publicity, but the lunar new year incident has been widely reported.
Mr Tung sidestepped a question by Democrat legislator Cheung Man-kwong on whether the Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong - including daily meditations outside central government offices - would constitute subversion under laws still to be drawn up, but said the sect did warrant observation.
''We cannot look at Falun Gong as a traditional religion. From the reports you see that ... Falun Gong did harm to quite a lot of people.
''Recently in Hong Kong, Falun Gong practitioners have adopted a higher profile and they have targeted the central government. We are keeping a close eye on Falun Gong activities,'' he said.
Hong Kong also had to be aware of events on the mainland and should act to protect peace and prosperity throughout China, he said.
''We have a common responsibility to protect the overall interests of the country and of Hong Kong,'' he said, adding that any harm to the mainland's society and economy would hurt Hong Kong too.
While pledging that the administration would continue to support the rule of law, Mr Tung said the Falun Gong deserved scrutiny.
''On the basis of these principles, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will closely observe the activities of the Falun Gong in Hong Kong and will not allow anyone to abuse Hong Kong's freedom and tolerance to affect public peace and order in Hong Kong or public peace and order in the mainland.''
Responding to Mr Tung's comments, Democratic legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming said the Chief Executive had taken his usual pro-Beijing line. He said Mr Tung had not respected the principle of ''one country two systems''.
''One country two systems requires our Government to look at these people [Falun Gong members] and judge what they have been doing in Hong Kong then to draw a conclusion on whether they have committed any criminal offences or not,'' he explained.
Legislator Cheung Man-kwong had asked Mr Tung whether Falun Gong members had committed any crime,''but he completely ignored the question and called them an evil cult,'' said Mr Lee.
''The central government does not like religious groups such as Catholics... if it labelled them an evil cult - would Hong Kong name them as evil cults too,'' he asked.
Earlier Mr Tung said he hoped to announce a replacement for Anson Chan Fang On-sang as Chief Secretary for Administration next week.
It has been widely predicted Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will fill the post, with the only real discussion being about who will take over his job.
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