HONG KONG (AP)--The spiritual group Falun Gong accuses the police of trying to turn public opinion against it by surveying residents near the site of a months' long protest. Police said Friday they were acting in response to neighborhood complaints.
Members of the Falun Gong, which is outlawed in mainland China but legal in Hong Kong, have been protesting Beijing' [persecution] on the group inside China by staging a sit-in that began Aug. 25 near China' liaison office in Hong Kong.
Saturday, police and other officials seized banners from [group] members participating in the sit-in. After a brief scuffle, police forcibly removed protesters from the area but no one was arrested.
Falun Gong members said police had since warned them daily that they could be prosecuted for causing an obstruction. The sit-in occupies a section of pavement in front of the apartment building beside the liaison office, though residents and passers-by have space to walk through.
The authorities' treatment of Falun Gong members has proved sensitive in this city, which enjoys civil liberties unheard of in the mainland under an autonomy arrangement that took effect when Britain handed the colony back to China in 1997.
Residents Confirm Police Survey
Residents of the apartment building beside China' liaison office confirmed that police had been seeking opinions about the protest.
"Six plainclothes police officers came by and asked whether Falun Gong has caused any disturbance to us," said 70-year-old Jimmy Keung. "They were knocking on my neighbors' doors as well."
Eight other residents said police visited them Tuesday and Wednesday evening, asking if Falun Gong had caused them any inconvenience. Keung and several others said police had asked them to sign their names to a document if they wanted to complain about the sit-in.
"They asked whether we have any opinions about them and whether they were noisy," said a woman who identified herself by the surname Lau.
Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung accused police of trying to stir up public opinion against the group to justify taking action against them.
Police acknowledged that officers had conducted the interviews, saying the investigation was in response to a complaint from the building' management office. They denied that the action was politically motivated.
"There was a complaint and police took necessary action and reasonable action to ascertain the complaint," said Superintendent Charles Wong, a police spokesman.
A supervisor at the property management company for Cheung Ning building, who identified himself only by the surname Pak, confirmed that the building' management had sent a complaint letter to police on behalf of some residents.
China contends that Falun Gong, which claimed millions of followers before Beijing' [persecution], is a public menace and a threat to [party' name omitted] rule.
Falun Gong followers insist theirs is a peaceful nonpolitical movement. They believe its slow-motion meditation exercises and philosophies promote health and morality.
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