HONG KONG: Hundreds of Falun Gong followers protested on Sunday against Beijing’s crackdown on the meditation group in mainland China, where it has been banned since 1999 as an “evil cult”.
“The persecution of Falun Gong is still continuing,” said Sharon Xu, a spokeswoman for the group in Hong Kong. “What they are doing against Falun Gong is wrong.”
Wearing their trademark yellow T-shirts and holding banners reading, “Rescue Falun Gong practitioners persecuted in China,” more than 400 members marched peacefully from a downtown park to the mainland Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong.
Many demonstrators were visitors from other countries who came to Hong Kong for a Falun Gong conference on Saturday. Among them were Taiwanese, Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Malaysians and Americans.
“We are here to appeal for human rights in China,” said Erik Meltzer, a 19-year-old college student from Boston on his first trip to Asia. “The persecution in China can no longer be tolerated.”
Falun Gong claims that at least 949 followers have died in Chinese custody and many thousands more have been detained. China denies abusing any Falun Gong practitioners in custody, but independent verification is impossible to obtain.
Falun Gong remains legal in Hong Kong and frequently protests in the territory against the crackdown, which began under former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Despite a guarantee of Western-style freedoms after its return from Britain to China in 1997, Hong Kong has gradually tightened its grip on the group, Falun members say.
Nineteen Taiwanese and six Macau followers who intended to take part in the conference have been barred from entry to the territory and sent back since Wednesday, Xu said. Immigration officials declined to comment.