The Hong Kong government has intensified its suppression of free expression in public and in the media recently. For example, with the excuse of keeping the city neat and clean in advance of the upcoming district election, the local government have tried to remove banners and posters displayed at Falun Gong truth-clarifying sites. This has attracted wide attention in the city, and many are worried that the Hong Kong government is once again trying to please the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by suppressing the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. They are concerned that the so-called “One Country-Two System” policy will not be honoured.
|Falun Gong truth-clarifying posters at different tourist spots in Hong Kong have been ordered removed|
Since the persecution of Falun Gong in China started in July, 1999, Hong Kong Falun Gong practitioners have been clarifying the truth of the persecution on street corners and at many tourist sites. The many Falun Gong signs and banners have been viewed by many as an indicator of the freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
However, since the recent visit by CCP vice prime minister Li Keqiang in August, the Hong Kong government has taken a series of measures to suppress civilians’ rights of free expression and to restrict normal media activities. On September 2nd, several Falun Gong truth-clarifying sites received a letter from the Food and Environment Hygiene Department (FEHD) which demanded the practitioners remove their posters and banners at the penalty up to $10,000 HKD (~$1300) and $300 HKD/day. By September 8th, over 10 sites have received such a letter. For example, over 10 officials of the FEHD recently went to Lok Ma Chau site and they tied a plastic wrapped letter to each practitioners’ banner and poster. They also told the practitioners that the signs must be removed immediately because of upcoming district election. They stayed at the site for about one hour, harassing the practitioners who were conducting their normal truth-clarifying activities. The FEHD officials threatened further action in a few days.
A Hong Kong Falun Gong spokesperson said that their truth-clarifying activities, including the display of banners and posters in public places, are basic rights of freedom of expression which are enshrined by the Hong Kong Basic Law. He said:
“All signs are setup daily at the beginning of our activities and taken off at the end of the day. They are of no danger to passersby, traffic or public health. Such peaceful activities should never be suppressed by the government. In the past 12 years, we have been holding this type of peaceful demonstration to raise awareness of the persecution in China all the time, and they have become a special attraction in the city. However, our activities have recently been interfered by the Food and Environment Hygiene Department. Evidently, the intention is to limit our freedom of speech and expression. For example, when the CCP vice prime minister visited Hong Kong in this past August, people were not even allowed to wear T-shirts [related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.]”
The spokesman stressed that Hong Kong residents have the right to peaceful rallies and demonstrations in public areas. Any interference from the government to Falun Gong truth-clarifying activities, including forced relocation and confiscation of demonstration materials, violate the Basic Law. As victims of such interference, practitioners reserve their rights to seek damages and justice in the courts.
In the past several days, many practitioners have visited FEHD and other related government agencies to clarify the truth and express their position. They clearly stated that they will not remove any banners and posters. According to practitioner Liao Qiulan who has been involved in this effort, some high level officials were speechless and helpless facing practitioners clarification.
The spokesman said that this interference revealed that the Hong Kong government is once again cooperating with the CCP to import its tyranny to Hong Kong and trample Hong Kong core values. The general public will not agree with this and public servants will not assist the government in these wrongdoings. He called upon the general public to step up to protect Hong Kong core values.
Leung Kwok-hung, legislative council member, urged the general public to be alert to government violations of civil rights. “According the Basic Law, freedom of expression is one of the basic rights. The incident not only targets Falun Gong, it targets all of society. We cannot allow the government to limit citizen rights for any excuse.”
Raymond Wong, legislative council member, pointed out that freedom of expression should not be jeopardised no matter what regulations are to be enacted for the upcoming district election. He believed that this incident was planned by the government and the CCP must be behind it because the CCP cannot tolerate Falun Gong efforts to end the persecution.
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