AP: Falun Gong followers wrap up defence in Hong Kong obstruction trial

Thu Aug 8

HONG KONG - A defence lawyer told a magistrate Thursday that 16 Falun Gong followers must be acquitted on obstruction charges or Hong Kong's guarantees of free speech and assembly would mean nothing.

"This prosecution is completely misconceived," attorney Paul Harris argued, wrapping up his case on the 26th day of Hong Kong's first-ever criminal trial against Falun Gong practitioners.

The Falun Gong followers, including four Swiss and one New Zealand citizen, are accused of creating an obstruction during a protest outside the Chinese government liaison office here on March 14. Police urged them to move several steps away from the spot in front of the office, but they refused and were arrested in a scuffle.

Nine of the defendants are also accused of obstructing police who broke up the demonstration following complaints from the Chinese office, and three are accused of assaulting police.

Harris told Magistrate Symon Wong that a conviction would go against Hong Kong's Basic Law, which guarantees Western-style civil liberties here including the freedoms of speech, demonstration and assembly.

If Wong sides with the prosecution's case, the Basic Law would be "totally meaningless," Harris said.

The demonstration, against mainland China's suppression of Falun Gong, was so small that the Falun Gong followers didn't even have to give advance warning to Hong Kong police, who must be advised of marches by more than 50 people or rallies by more than 30, Harris said.

"It was entirely peaceful," he said. "It did not constitute any threat to public order."

Addressing the scuffling between Falun Gong followers and police, Harris said the Falun Gong followers were being illegally arrested so they had the right to use minimal force.

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