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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Falun Gong cries foul over stricter entry regulations -

Nishika Patel

Friday, March 28, 2008

HK Standard: The Falun Gong has slammed Hong Kong's strict immigration control in the run-up to the August Olympics, claiming it has prevented 80 percent of its Taiwanese members from attending a human rights awareness event in the territory.

While up to 90 percent of its members had been allowed entry in the past, the group told The Standard that the government has banned hundreds of practitioners from entering the territory over the past few months.

Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said only 100 Taiwanese members had been allowed in for last Sunday's Human Rights Torch Relay launch.

"We regret to say that the Immigration Department of Hong Kong is using every means to collect a blacklist [to] prevent our foreign members from coming in," Kan said.

"This is of great concern because Hong Kong is a free city but we regret the SAR government is more and more controlled by the mainland regime."

The Human Rights Torch Relay is a global campaign that spans 40 countries and 150 cities to highlight human rights violations by China, including the Tibet crackdown and the persecution of Falun Gong in the mainland.

The Falun Gong is banned in the mainland but is legal in Hong Kong.

City University political professor James Sung Lap-kung said more and more members will be turned away in the coming months following pressure from Beijing, which views the group as a "dangerous" cult.

"The Falun Gong will be in deep trouble over the next few months. Beijing considers the Falun Gong to be a partner in the recent Tibet riots," Sung said. "As the Olympics draw closer, Beijing will be trying to identify dangerous forces that are planning to jeopardize the Games."

Kan said the Falun Gong will step up the number of parades and rallies in the run-up to the Olympics to highlight the persecution of its members in the mainland. He stressed the group was not calling for a boycott of the Games and was not against the Olympic torch relay arriving in the SAR on May 2.

Sung said the situation in Hong Kong is very sensitive as the government will try to balance its role as an international communications center with any order from Beijing.

Last month the Falun Gong in Hong Kong lost a judicial review, appealing against the Immigration Department's refusal to allow hundreds of its Taiwanese members into Hong Kong during the 10th handover ceremony. The judge had ruled it was a one-off incident and was not a result of religious discrimination as argued by the group.

On the latest claims, a government spokesman said: "We do not comment on speculative reports. The Immigration Department has the responsibility to uphold effective immigration control so as to ensure Hong Kong's public interest."

The department, he said, handles all entry applications in accordance with the law and prevailing policy and having due regard to individual circumstance

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