Speech from Vice-Chairman of European Friends of Falun Gong given before the Global Coalition Against Article 23 Rally

Chinese people throughout the world are currently celebrating the Chinese New Year in the time-honoured fashion, with dancing displays, parades, and the customary culinary delights, which the Chinese nation is renowned for. However for the millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China, these New Year celebrations have been tainted with fear and trepidation, as they have been for the previous three years since the government began its brutal persecution of Falun Gong.

For tens of thousands of them, locked away in prisons, labour camps and mental hospitals across China, any kind of celebration has not been possible. At this time in particular, we must spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves, those who can see no end to a life of severe torture and pain, some of whom it is likely will not live to see in another New Year. It is for this reason that we must keep up the pressure on Jiang Zemin’s regime, and that of the new President Hu Jintao, when he takes over control very soon, to bring these unjust and hideous acts of persecution to an end.

Moreover the boundaries of China’s influence threaten to become wider, in particular with the imminent introduction of Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong. If this anti-subversion law is made part of the statute books in Hong Kong, it would effectively mean the end of Hong Kong’s ability to administer its own affairs, which China promised in 1997, at the time of the handover by Britain, would continue for another 50 years as part of the so-called ‘One country – two systems’ principle. This principle is gradually being eroded by a creeping tendency for China to exert its influence on the government and judiciary of Hong Kong, an influence which we sense is being orchestrated with the express desire to further subjugate practitioners of Falun Gong and other people who dare to practise free thought.

We have already seen how China brought undue pressure to bear on the judge in the case of the 16 Falun Gong practitioners, who were tried for and found guilty of obstruction outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong last March. We would therefore appeal to the authorities in Hong Kong not to be browbeaten by Chinese officialdom into agreeing to any reduction in the rights of freedom of belief and expression of its citizens. You must stand up to China and maintain the ‘One country – two systems’ principle in the spirit in which it was agreed.

Above all, we appeal to the Chinese government, to Jiang Zemin and to Hu Jintao, to allow Hong Kong to administer its own affairs and to permit full and open discussion on the introduction of Article 23 with the people of Hong Kong. Finally we appeal once again to China, for the sake of all those who value the principles of ‘Truth, Compassion and Forbearance’, to release all those being held in prison immediately and to bring this outrageous persecution of Falun Gong practitioners to an end.

European Friends of Falun Gong
8th February 2003

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