Hong Kong: Falun Gong documents ‘too sensitive’

Authorities prohibit public disclosure of information on four Falun Gong activists

Documents concerning how four Falun Gong practitioners were placed on a Department of Immigration watch list are too sensitive for open court, Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan has decreed.

Mr Hui said the release of the documents covered by a court order issued by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, who is hearing a judicial review brought by the four practitioners in the Court of First Instance, was not in the public interest.

The four — Theresa Chu Woan-chyi, Liao Hsiao-lan, Lu Lih-ching and Chang Jenn-yen — say that because of their religious affiliation they were treated unfairly and unreasonably when turned away from Chek Lap Kok airport in February 2003, after arriving from Taiwan for a conference organised by the Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa.

They were among 83 overseas Falun Gong practitioners refused entry to Hong Kong at that time, 80 of them from Taiwan.

Mr Hui issued two certificates claiming public interest immunity after Mr Justice Hartmann ordered the release of any documents or entries made on the watch list relating to the four, up to and including the days when they were turned back. He also requested documents containing general guidance for immigration officers on how to implement the watch list system.

Daniel Fung SC, for the government, said that while some of the documents requested could be aired in open court, individual files relating to the practitioners, as well as operations manuals and standing orders for immigration officers, were too sensitive.

“If these materials fell into the hands of people hostile to the security system of Hong Kong,” Mr Fung said, “… then that would reveal the internal workings of the [watch list] system and those people would be in a better position to circumvent it. It is therefore of paramount public interest that the internal workings of that system not be revealed.”

But Mr Fung did concede that Mr Justice Hartmann could examine those documents covered by the certificates if the judge felt they were relevant to his deliberations. While the four practitioners’ legal team would not be allowed to view the documents, the government was prepared to accept the appointment of a special, independent advocate to look out for their interests if Mr Justice Hartmann wanted to view the documents.

The practitioners’ lawyer, Paul Harris, said they would agree to a special advocate being appointed only if it was Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes SC — a nominee he said the government had rejected out of hand.

The hearing continues today.

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South China Morning Post, via AsiaMedia, Hong Kong
Feb. 7, 2006
Nick Gentle

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday February 8, 2006.
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