Comment by Lord Thurlow, formerly Deputy Under-Secretary of State (UK), on the Unjust Trial in Hong Kong

The trial in Hong Kong of the 16 Falun Gong practitioners who protested peacefully on the 14th March outside the office of the Peoples' Republic of China Liaison Office against the brutal persecution in China, has become a test case of the integrity and independence of the administration of justice in Hong Kong according to the Basic Law.

The charge that the protesters obstructed the thoroughfare can only be regarded as a trumped up distortion of fact. Pedestrians were never impeded in their passage along the pavement, and there was no question of obstruction of vehicles in the street. That the allegations are hollow was illustrated by the action of the authorities immediately after the protest in themselves obstructing the passage of pedestrians by works to create a flowerbed in the space, thereby reducing the area available to passers-by.

The action of the police in arresting and charging the peaceful protesters itself gave justifiable grounds for objection. The manner in which the trial has been conducted increases fears that the incident is evidence of a decision in Beijing to seek to extend the persecution of Falun Gong in mainland China to encroach on the rights and freedom of Hong Kong as guaranteed by the Basic Law. It also engenders the suspicion that the Hong Kong administration of the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, is disposed to yield to Chinese Communist Government pressure for practitioners to be harassed.

Further disquieting signs are the extraordinarily offensive treatment of the Defence Counsel by the presiding magistrate, evoking a charge of bias of the Court, and the apparent manipulation of the Court timetable to spin out the period of detention of the victims.

Should the verdict be prima facie unjust, this could raise large issues affecting British relations with China. But, if there should be an appeal, the case will remain sub judice.

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