SCMP Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Jiang flies in to stiff protests
SCMP.com and AGENCIES
Last updated at 6.30pm:
Widespread protests greeted President Jiang Zemin as he flew into Hong Kong on Tuesday on his first visit to the territory since 1998.
While pomp and ceremony were the order of the day at the official welcome at Chep Lap Kok, elsewhere a wave of different protests gave voice to public discontent over Beijing's policies, ahead of this week's Fortune Global Forum which Mr Jiang is to address later tonight.
More than 150 Falun Gong adherents, wearing yellow T-shirts, waved banners and practiced meditation exercises to music in local parks.
''Jiang Zemin cannot shirk responsibility for the persecution of Falun Gong,'' one banner said. It had photographs attached of alleged members persecuted in mainland China. The group says the mainland government is responsible for the deaths of 202 of its followers.
Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said five followers from Macau were kept out of Hong Kong around midday on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people banned in the last few days to more than 100, in what the sect claims is the use of a blacklist.
Sect spokeswoman Sophie Xiao said earlier at least 30 people were being detained at the airport after being barred from entry on Monday by immigration officials.
Forty-nine overseas Falun Gong followers were stopped yesterday, with some claiming they had their luggage searched, mobile phones confiscated and were forcibly removed for deportation.
The US Consulate said it wanted to know why some Americans were kept away.
''We are concerned, however, that these procedures were apparently used arbitrarily to deny entry to some American citizens, which could have the effect of limiting freedom of information and belief and restricting the free flow of ideas,'' said consular spokeswoman Barbara Zigli.
Ms Zigli added that ''it is important to Hong Kong's success as an international city that it remain open to the travelling public.''
Ms Zigli would not say how many US citizens were kept away but Falun Gong said seven people from the United States, including at least four citizens, had been banned, along with people from Taiwan, Australia, Britain and several other countries.
SAR authorities have denied stopping anyone from entering on the basis of Falun Gong membership, but immigration officials have declined to say how many people were kept out or to explain why.
One Taiwanese follower, Hong Geehong, said he had been deported on Monday night but he tried to come to Hong Kong again on Tuesday, only to be stopped a second time.
''Falun Gong has helped me a lot - it is good for me,'' Mr Hong said by telephone, adding that he had been taken to a room to be interviewed by immigration officials. ''Today is meaningful for me to come again.''
The largest Falun Gong gatherings were in Tsim Sha Tsui East and Queen Elizabeth Stadium. On Hong Kong Island, about 50 Falun Gong members gathered near Happy Valley racetrack to exercise to music with protest banners flying.
Other groups in the streets on Tuesday lobbied for a range of issues. The largest, about 500, involved families of mainland Chinese fighting for residency in Hong Kong. Another, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, called for an end to Beijing's one-party communist rule.
Mr Jiang, who was met at the airport by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and more than 100 children waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags, is scheduled to address the conference's opening dinner at 6.30pm, local radio reported.
The three-day high-profile event brings together top corporate executives and speakers will include former US President Bill Clinton and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The Government is permitting some protest activities, but have banned any demonstrations from taking place immediately outside the conference venue at Wan Chai's Convention Centre, instead allocating a protest zone 300 metres away and limiting numbers to around 20. Police have allowed larger Falun Gong demonstrations to take place over the Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Seven pro-democracy demonstrators who chained themselves to a flag pole on Monday afternoon, only to be removed by police who freed them with bolt cutters, were charged with obstruction, the Government said early on Tuesday.
Falun Gong spokeswoman Sharon Xu accused the Government of unfair tactics by barring so many followers from entering, although Ms Xiao said more than 100 overseas followers made it past immigration on Monday.
''This shows a pure discrimination against Falun Gong practitioners,'' Ms Xu said. ''Some of them are housewives. They have never entered Hong Kong and have no adverse record at home.''
Frank Lu Siqing, who runs the SAR-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, said Hong Kong authorities had violated the human rights of Falun Gong followers by targeting them because of their religious beliefs. Mr Lu said he was drafting a complaint to the United Nations.
Despite a large number of groups protesting here, the number of activists remains only in the hundreds and no one is expecting the sort of disruptions that marred global economic conferences in Seattle and Quebec. But authorities are taking no chances and have mobilised 3,000 police, 1,000 more than at the Handover, in the largest security operation of recent years.