Belated Report: Hong Kong Court of Appeal Opens Hearing on Falun Gong "Public Obstruction" Case

On September 3, Falun Gong practitioners from Hong Kong and Switzerland began their 3-day Court of Appeal hearings of the "public obstruction" case that a judge in Hong Kong convicted them for last year. At nine o'clock in the morning, ten practitioners who were involved in the case marched from Charter Gardens to the Court of Appeal located on Queensway, with the support of dozens of other practitioners. They went into the courthouse after reading a public announcement.

The practitioners indicated in their public announcement that their peaceful demonstration in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities was totally consistent with the rights that the Chinese Constitution and Hong Kong's Basic Law grant their people. The purpose of their appeal was to uphold the human rights and liberty of people in China and Hong Kong, as well as the morality, justice and conscience that humankind depends on.

The Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ma, said that there is no doubt that Hong Kong people have the freedom to demonstrate under the protection of the Basic Law. The issue is how to define the boundaries of freedom of demonstration. Mr. Ma indicated before the hearing ended that demonstration in Hong Kong is protected by the constitution. Still, it must be noted that demonstrations can cause certain disturbances. Under what situations do such disturbances call for police intervention, and to what extent does such intervention infringe on people's freedom to demonstrate? These are the issues to be resolved in this case.

Hong Kong Enjoys an Independent Judicial System

The attorney representing the practitioners, Zhuang Xishi, said that last year Falun Gong practitioners' demonstration in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities was a cultural coalition of the East and West, as it involved four Swiss citizens. He said that the Swiss practitioners did not go to China to demonstrate because the Chinese government refused to issue them visas. Hong Kong's judicial system is independent of China's, so they decided to demonstrate in Hong Kong instead.

In his argument he stated that the walkway in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities is 13.7 meters long and 9.5 meters wide. There are normally very few pedestrians there. The section is not part a parking zone or crosswalk. It is apparent that a small to medium size peaceful demonstration in such a walkway would not cause any significant inconvenience to anyone. He pointed out that the roadblock that police had set up in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities on the day of demonstration and subsequent days occupied an area larger than that occupied by the demonstrators. That was truly blocking the street.

It Would Be Beneficial to China to Stop The Suppression

One of the Swiss practitioners, Eric Bachmann, said that he was stopped by officials at customs for questioning when he arrived in Hong Kong on August 28. He said that the officials began by asking him if he was to engage in any demonstrations in Hong Kong. Although he showed to them the documentation for his court appearance, they would not believe him and called the attorney to verify. Eric indicated that the reason for his appeal is to get a fair trial. He believes that Hong Kong should not succumb to the pressure by the Chinese government.

Eric also stated that practitioners around the world have filed lawsuits against Jiang Zemin for genocide. He believes that the lawsuits will stop Jiang's atrocities against Falun Gong practitioners and will benefit China.

Eric said that he was questioned at customs for over an hour when he came to Hong Kong this time, as well as last February. Furthermore, he was only allowed to stay for a few days, even after he showed them the letters from the attorney. He felt that he was being discriminated against. During his February visit, the customs officials even asked him to guarantee that he would not participate in any demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Human Rights Law Tests The Boundary of Freedom of Demonstration

Legislative Council member James TO Kun-sun pointed out that anyone (including foreigners) are allowed to engage in legal demonstrations or protests. Therefore, the customs officials' requirement of Eric to not engage in any demonstration in Hong Kong was essentially asking him to promise not to conduct a legal act, which is not reasonable.

As to whether the demonstration is legal or not, Mr. TO, a former attorney himself, said that one cannot make a blanket statement. Human Rights Law should be used to evaluate whether one is blocking the street. As far as the specific case associated with Falun Gong practitioners last year, he felt that it was clear-cut: the walkway in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities was so wide that one could not "block the street." He felt that the District government had abused its power in this case.

Many people have attempted to demonstrate in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities, but they were all stopped by the police. Regarding this, Mr. TO said categorically that the police officers' actions were wrong. "They should not apply to Hong Kong what takes place in Mainland China."

The "Public Obstruction" Case History

According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, Jiang Zemin issued a "shoot to kill" order last March, ordering the police to open fire on practitioners who put up posters.

On March 14 2002, four Swiss and 12 practitioners from Hong Kong were arrested by the Hong Kong police when they appealed in front of the Office of China Liaison Authorities against the "shoot to kill" order. They were accused of "blocking the street," "interfering with official business" and "attacking police." After a 32-day trial, the judge convicted the practitioners of all seven offences they were charged with, and fined them between 1300 to 3800 Hong Kong dollars.

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