Dozens of Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioners were barred from entering Hong Kong recently, serving as a reminder that the city’s constitutional freedoms are ultimately subject to Beijing’s authority, according to outside analysts and Falun Gong activists.
“This cannot be taken as an isolated thing for the Falun Gong group, because the Falun Gong is an indicator for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong,” Taiwanese radio reporter Ko I-Chun said in Washington last week.
“The way they were treated could be applied to any group.”
Some of the travelers were held for hours without access to food and water while others were placed in restraints before being put on flights back to Taiwan, she said.
The action served to limit protests against Chinese President Hu Jintao during a visit to Hong Kong on July 1, the 10th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule, said John J. Tkacik Jr., a China scholar at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
“The fact that Hong Kong immigration deals differently with Falun Gong adherents now than it did 10 years ago is a clear indication that China has strengthened its hold on the [territory’s] domestic politics,” Mr. Tkacik said. “It’s a disturbing reminder that Hong Kong is not wholly independent from Beijing’s influence.”
Hong Kong officials offered no official explanation for the incident. The Hong Kong immigration department does not comment on individual cases, said Daniel McAtee, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington.
Although Hong Kong has been part of Communist China since the British left in 1997, it enjoys a high degree of political autonomy and more social and economic freedom than the mainland — conditions that many see as vital to the city’s continued role as a global financial center.
With roots in Buddhism, Taoism and other beliefs, Falun Gong is a spiritual practice combining meditation and exercises that was established in 1992. The group estimated it had 100 million followers worldwide when the Chinese government banned it in 1999, saying its practitioners “engaged in superstition and disrupted public order.”
Chinese officials have described the movement as “an evil cult,” saying hundreds of members have committed suicide under its influence. Falun Gong members say they are the victims of ongoing persecution, imprisonment and torture in mainland China.
Falun Gong has remained legal in Hong Kong under Chinese rule, and the group stages protests regularly, Mr. McAtee said. Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Basic Law, enshrines for residents such liberties as a free press, free expression and the right to demonstrate.
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Great discoveries in the world of restaurants and chefs fulfill the quest for delicious food and cooking.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Doloff and friends.
“Right Angles” explores serious subjects, such as the Islamization of the Middle East and delegitimization of Israel, with humor, candor and a twist.
World's Ugliest Dog Contest
Spelling Bee finale
Marines train Afghan soldiers
Rolling Thunder 2013
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal