Associated Press, Aug. 15, 2002
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The Chinese-language daily Ming Pao said police had overreacted and “a wrong prosecution resulted in a wrong verdict.”
Ming Pao noted that the trial hinged on laws intended to stop illegal street peddlers from blocking Hong Kong’s sidewalks.
“It was not meant to target any political dissidents, restricting them from demonstrating and exercising their right of freedom of expression,” Ming Pao editorialized.
A pro-Beijing newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, supported the government’s decision to try the Falun Gong followers, who included four Swiss and one New Zealand resident, and said they deserved to be convicted.
The defendants all received small fines but no jail time, even though some were found guilty of more serious offenses including obstructing and assaulting the police.
“The verdicts are completely based on the facts,” Ta Kung Pao editorialized. “The facts are there. Their guilt can’t be denied.”
When Hong Kong was reverted from British to Chines sovereignty in 1997, Western-style freedoms of speech and assembly were guaranteed for at least 50 years under a government arrangement dubbed “one country, two systems.”
Frequent local protests by Falun Gong, which is outlawed in mainland China as an “evil cult,” however, have outraged many pro-Beijing figures who have demanded a local ban on their activities.
Hong Kong has stopped well short of that, and Falun Gong remains legal here, but opposition figures and human rights campaigners fear the territory’s freedoms are being undermined.
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