AFP (Agence France Presse): Falungong [protest] treatment of Taiwanese practitioners

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Sunday, 23-Feb-2003

HONG KONG, Feb 23 (AFP) - Hong Kong Falungong practitioners on Sunday slammed government treatment of a group of Taiwanese nationals allegedly detained and treated inhumanely when they arrived for a group meeting.

Eighty of the 450 Falungong practitioners who flew here last week for a meeting and demonstration were denied entry on arrival at the airport for "security reasons," and returned to Taiwan.

At least nine of those who were returned home alleged they were treated violently when they argued with immigration officials, the group said.

In an open letter to chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and security chief Regina Ip, the spiritual group demanded an "apology for the violent actions" and fair treatment for the group.

Victim Lu Li-ching said she suffered bruises to her hands and mouth when she was escorted by force to the plane.

"Eight riot policemen wrapped me up with a blanket," Lu told AFP.

"A flight attendant witnessing the scene told me she had never seen police resort to such brutalities on civilians."

Some 250 Falungong [practitioners] gathered outside Hong Kong immigration offices Sunday, hoisting banners urging an end to persecution of its members.

"All our (Taiwanese) [practitioners] who arrived had valid visas and passports and had no (criminal) records so we don't know why they were stopped and detained, some for 12 hours without food or ventilation before deportation," said Falungong spokeswoman Sharon Xu.

The spiritual group, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, was banned by China in July 1999 [...] but remains legal in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China since 1997.

Taiwan protested strongly Saturday against what it called unfriendly and inhumane treatment by the Hong Kong government of its nationals.

"We hereby express our gravest protest toward the violence and disregard of human rights by the Hong Kong government," the Taipei cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a statement.


Falungong practitioner Sophie Xiao said she feared the group could suffer more ill-treatment when proposed anti-subversion laws in Hong Kong are implemented.

"Beijing will use the law as a weapon to introduce mainland Chinese-style oppression and persecution to Hong Kong," said Xiao.

"They will use national security as an excuse to target Falungong and other groups considered undesirable by Beijing."

Hong Kong is obliged under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the territory's mini-constitution, to pass laws banning treason, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets.

Despite the dilution of the security law bill, which goes to lawmakers February 26, the proposal to ban groups outlawed in mainland China on national security grounds was retained.

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