des Associations & Particuliers
pour la Liberté de Conscience
CAP pour la
Liberté de Conscience - Liberté de Religion - Liberté
"Wall Street Journal" - 25 mai 2001
Hong Kong authorities
appear to be on the verge of following Beijing's lead and banning the FalunGong
spiritual movement. Such a move would be the gravest blow yet to the principle
of "one country, two systems" and would effectively downgrade the
territory to the status of just another mainland city, making it difficult
for foreign governments to justify treating
it as an entity distinct from the rest of China.
Chief Executive Tung
Chee Hwa seems to be looking for a way to ban the group while still preserving
the appearance that all is well with Hong Kong's rule of law. The head of
the civil service Donald Tsang announced last week that the government is
considering an anti-cult criminal law similar to those drafted in some Western
countries; the main model is reportedly a law now before the French legislature.
In order to justify such
a move, the government is gearing up a campaign to portray the Falun Gong
as a threat to Hong Kong's people. This week, Secretary of Security Regina
Ip explained that the government is considering legislation because FalunGong
is a "spillover" from the mainland, where it has been declared an
"evil cult." Mr. Tung has laid he agrees
with that label, and a few days ago added that the self-immolations of five
people, said to be FalunGong members, on Tiananmen Square in January reminded
him of the Jonestown mass suicide in 1978. He called the group "a mix
of cult and politics" and said he had to
watch its members because "I don't want them to do irreparable harm to
Adopting a law like the
one under consideration in France would represent an attack on Hong Kong's
freedoms. The law is vague enough about what constitutes a cult to allow serious
abuses of power by officials, and it is ill-advised even in France. But at
least there it can be counterbalanced by the forces of democracy, since French
citizens can use the ballot box to remove from power a government that enforces
the law too harshly. No such possibility exists in undemocratic Hong Kong.
Moreover, the law would
immediately pose a problem for the Hong Kong judiciary, which would be called
on to judge whether it violated the freedoms guaranteed in the Basic Law,
the territory's post-handover constitution. The local courts deservedly enjoy
a reputation as the finest in Asia, but since the 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty
the highest body, the Court of Final Appeal, has had its wings clipped on
constitutional matters by the National People's Congress in Beijing.
Just to be absolutely
clear, the FalunGong poses no threat to Hong Kong. Its local members number
a few hundred, and it has never shown any propensity for violence. Indeed,
FalunGong's teachings prohibit violence, and even in mainland China, where
authorities have persecuted the group ruthlessly, the practitioners have refused
to lash out.
Other local religious
groups, including the Catholic Church, have come to Falun Gong's defense,
recognizing that any government action against the group would erode religious
freedom for all.
There can be no mistake,
an anti-cult law would be a crossing of the Rubicon, showing that Hong Kong
is willing to throw out the principle of "one country, two systems"
in order to please Beijing. lt would draw down condemnation on the Tung administration
from every government and organization that monitors Hong Kong's autonomy
and human rights, hurting the city's reputation. And it would even do economic
damage, by throwing into doubt Hong Kona's commitments to honor a whole range
of her promises that underpin its status as a reliable base for doing business.
The message is clear: FalunGong members should be left to practice their religion