Hong Kong: Appeals Court Overturns Convictions for Obstruction, Practitioners to Take Case to Court of Final Appeal

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On November 10th 2004, at 10am Hong Kong time, a Hong Kong Court of Appeal overturned some of the charges against 16 practitioners for protesting outside China's liaison office in March 2002. However, the court upheld 5 other charges against 9 practitioners. The practitioners' lawyer stated that the arrest was not justified as the charge of "Obstruction" had been overturned. Therefore, the court should not find the practitioners guilty for mildly resisting the police's unlawful arrest. Hong Kong practitioners said that they would continue their efforts to clarify the facts until the Hong Kong court dismisses all the charges.

In overturning the obstruction convictions on Wednesday, one judge said that despite the demonstration there was still ample space along the pavement for pedestrians and office workers to gain access to the building. In addition, the entire rally appeared to be peaceful. The lower court had failed to appreciate the significance of the Central Liaison Office being the target of the protest and paid insufficient consideration to the freedom of assembly and expression. Therefore, the court of appeal overturned the Obstruction conviction against all 16 practitioners.

Regarding the court ruling, Law Yuk-kai, chief secretary of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said that the ruling was very significant because it reaffirmed the right of the Hong Kong people to protest in public under the current constitutional system. He also thanked Falun Gong practitioners for their noble effort.

About fifty practitioners gathered at Charter Park at 8am, then marched to the Hong Kong High Court to appeal.

The false arrest took place in March 2002 when Jiang was very angry about the video broadcast by Falun Gong practitioners on Changchun TV. Jiang ordered the police to kill practitioners without pardon. On the morning of March 14th, 2002, to protest the Jiang regime's "shoot to kill" and "kill without pardon" orders, four Swiss Falun Gong practitioners started a 3-day hunger strike in front of the China Liaison Office. Twelve local Hong Kong practitioners joined the peaceful appeal. Under pressure from the China Liaison Office, at 1pm, Hong Kong authorities deployed a large number of police to forcefully remove and detain all 16 practitioners. At least one Swiss practitioner and eight Hong Kong practitioners were injured. The practitioners were falsely charged with "public obstruction" and "obstructing and assaulting police." In August 2002, a district court found all 16 practitioners guilty of all the charges and fined each practitioner between HK $1,300 and HK $3,800. Practitioners then appealed to the high court. The Hong Kong high court held a 3-day hearing in September 2003. After 14 months of unexpected delay, the court finally reached a verdict over this appeal on Wednesday.

According to a report from Radio Free Asia, on November 10th, 2004, the court of appeal stated that the Basic Law specified that citizens have the right to assemble and demonstrate. The lower court didn't give sufficient consideration to this. However, the court of appeal upheld the charges against 9 of the 16 for "obstructing and assaulting police." According to the report, the plaintiffs said that they would continue to appeal. Albert Ho Chun-yan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and also a Hong Kong legislative council member, said that the charges were not justified because the court had overturned the obstruction conviction. The moderate resistance of practitioners to the arrest was natural and justifiable.

Many media outlets around the world, including AP, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), San Francisco Examiner and others, reported on this case. An ABC update on this case said that Falun Gong alleged at least 1,600 practitioners have been tortured to death since China started the persecution 5 years ago.

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