Hong Kong chief secretary says law-abiding religious groups have nothing to fear

Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political
Publication date: 2002-08-19
http://– BROKEN URL yellowbrix.com -/pages/newsreal/Story.nsp?story_id=32258206

Excerpt from report by Radio Australia on 19 August

[Presenter Sen Lam] The government of Hong Kong says it will not outlaw the Falun Gong spiritual sect, even though China has done so. Beijing has banned the Falun Gong, which it deems an evil cult. Sixteen Falun Gong members were convicted [on 15 August] of causing a public obstruction during a protest outside China’s main office in the territory. Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Donald Tsang, who is in Melbourne, says the people are free to practise whatever religion they choose so long as they don’t break the law.

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[Tsang] We have absolute respect for freedom of religion and the practice of religion in Hong Kong. That is enshrined in our constitution, in our Basic Law, and everybody [is] able to do that, Falun Gong members able to do that. Every day, everywhere in Hong Kong they are practising, they have [been] seen to be practising, but of course there’s laws in Hong Kong that you cannot breach. If you break the law, then you’ll be answerable, accountable for that, but that is not motivated by religious reason at all. We must remember that Hong Kong is a totally free place but what has happened to Falun Gong members [is] that they were seen on television to be causing obstruction. They were charged. They got taken to court. They were convicted, but if they are not happy with it, they can go through the judicial process and appeal. This is how Hong Kong works.

[Lam] And indeed I think they do intend to appeal, but I guess my question is, is the Falun Gong an increasingly thorny issue for you?

[Tsang] Well, it is an issue as any other issues in Hong Kong. I do not see it as particularly difficult.

[Lam] But is it increasingly thorny in relation to the mainland?

[Tsang] No, I don’t see it that way. We have our own rules. We have our own system. That’s what one country, two systems mean. Well, the fact that it is proscribed and prohibited in China doesn’t mean it cannot practise its own things, exercise its own rights in Hong Kong, which is done now. The Falun Gong members practise their own things, saying their own, doing their own exercise every day in Hong Kong.

[Lam] China has banned the Falun Gong and indeed has labelled it an evil cult, and your boss, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, thinks the same. What is your assessment?

[Tsang] Falun Gong members have been practising their own rights, doing their own breathing exercises every day. They hold a demonstration in front of the mainland representative’s office every day, and provided it keeps within the bounds of the law, it is perfectly all right for them to do so.

[Lam] Will Hong Kong ever consider legislating against movements considered to be cults?

[Tsang] We have, as I’ve said, our constitution of Basic Law, which protects freedom of religion. We are not in a position to legislate against a religion as such, but everyone in Hong Kong in practising their own religion must abide by the law…

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