"Today the world has the opportunity to remember all those people who, because of their political or religious beliefs, are persecuted by their own governments.
There are still thousands of people in jails throughout the globe, who have committed no crime in the eyes of the democratic world, in the eyes of all of us stood here today. The vast majority of these people come from a very small number of countries whose governments see persecution, imprisonment, and torture as the most effective way to suppress the views of anyone who opposes their often brutal regimes. By far the most guilty of those governments is that of China; the Jiang Zemin regime has been responsible for the deaths in custody of more than 500 Falun Gong practitioners over the past three-and-a-half years, with countless others unaccounted for, and thousands more languish in squalid conditions in prisons, mental hospitals and labour camps across China, with little hope of being released.
Today has even greater significance for the millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China, for two main reasons. Firstly the replacement of Jiang Zemin as president by Hu Jintao. It is to be hoped that the new president will have a softer, more liberal attitude towards Falun Gong than his predecessor. We appeal to Hu Jintao to carry out a full-scale review of the Chinese governments policy on the persecution of Falun Gong. We appeal to him to end the persecution and to release unconditionally all Falun Gong practitioners currently in prison in China.
Secondly there is the very important issue of the imminent introduction of Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, which, if it goes ahead without significant consultation with the people of Hong Kong, would severely diminish the degree to which the citizens of Hong Kong can have a say in the way Hong Kong is administered.
When Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, it was agreed by both parties that Hong Kong would be allowed to administer its own affairs for a minimum of fifty years, the so-called One country two systems principle. There have sadly been warning signs in the last few months that China is seeking to exert undue influence on the government and judiciary of Hong Kong.
The events in the first half of this year, when 16 Falun Gong practitioners were tried for and found guilty of public obstruction outside the Chinese Liaison Office and were subsequently fined, bear witness to Chinas increasing interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.
The issue of Article 23 is certain to be a key one in the forthcoming months in relation to the fate of Falun Gong practitioners in Mainland China and Hong Kong. We would therefore appeal in the strongest terms to those in positions of power in Hong Kong not to allow China to exert its influence on the administration of affairs in Hong Kong. They must stand up to China and maintain the One country two systems principle in the spirit in which it was agreed in 1997.
Above all we appeal to the Chinese government to honour its side of the agreement by allowing Hong Kong to run its own affairs, and by making sure that the terms of the introduction of Article 23 are properly discussed with the people of Hong Kong. Finally we appeal once again to China, in the name of humanity, to bring this appalling persecution of Falun Gong practitioners to an end."
European Friends of Falun Gong, 10th December 2002
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