(Wed Aug 7, 3:39 AM ET)
[Editor's note: The photos on http://faluninfo.net/focus/hongkong.asp clearly show how the so-called "obstruction" was impossible.]
HONG KONG - Wrapping up their arguments in Hong Kong's first criminal trial of Falun Gong members, defence lawyers said Wednesday that the territory's laws guaranteed the right to protest outside China's government office here.
The trial of 16 Falun Gong members -- including four Swiss -- on public obstruction charges has raised worries that Hong Kong is curbing human rights and clamping down on the sect, which is banned in mainland China but allowed here.
The Falun Gong members were arrested during a March 14 protest outside the Chinese government liaison office. The Swiss had been refused entry to mainland China and joined the Hong Kong demonstration instead.
In his summation, defence lawyer John Haynes argued that in making the arrests, police had encroached on the public's Common Law right to occupy the pavement outside the liaison office in downtown Hong Kong.
"It is our submission that they are demonstrably entitled to its (Common Law) protection before this court. That is why they must be acquitted," Haynes said. [...]
China banned Falun Gong on July 22, 1999, [...]Thousands of followers have been sent to labor camps.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule five years ago and still enjoys many Western-style liberties such as free speech.
The case is attracting strong interest from Falun Gong members outside Hong Kong, who [contacted] news organizations here with phone calls and faxes condemning the local government for the trial.
"History is marred with examples of those who have persecuted people of upright beliefs. In all cases, such persecution has not resulted in long-term prosperity. It is hoped that Hong Kong will not go the wrong way," said a statement from a Falun Gong Web site.
On the Net:
Falun Gong: www.clearwisdom.net.
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