AFP: Falun Gong urges Hong Kong legislators to ask police to drop charges

HONG KONG, March 20 (AFP) - The Falungong is seeking help from Hong Kong legislators to get the charges dropped against 16 members arrested during a protest in front of Beijing' liaison office.

"We hope that through our petitions to the legislators the police will drop the charges," said Hui Yee-han, spokeswoman of Falungong in Hong Kong.

"It is totally irrational," Hui said of the police charges, maintaining that if the practitioners were obstructing pedestrians in front of Beijing' liaison office, then they would have done so even at the nearby police-designated protest zone.

"It was a peaceful petition," she said, denying they were causing a public disturbance, and accusing the Hong Kong authorities of bowing to pressure from Beijing, which outlawed the [...] group in 1999.

The petition to the legislators come after four Swiss nationals and 12 Hong Kong Falungong members were charged last week with two counts of obstruction after they refused police requests to move to a nearby area to continue their sit-in.

The Falungong group will also ask legislators in their petition to offer assistance to their practitioners on the mainland whom it claimed were being "heavily and wrongfully prosecuted."

Meanwhile, the Falungong spiritual movement has also petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva calling for immediate action to stop the persecution of the Falungong in China.

In banning the group, China maintained the movement was the biggest threat to one-party Communist rule since the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.

But it is not banned in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" agreement which guarantees its autonomy for 50 years.

Since the ban, Falungong, a movement which combines meditation with [Buddha School] teachings, says tens of thousands of its followers have been jailed or sent to labour camps.

It alleges that as many as 300 followers have died from brutality in police detention.

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