Laws exist to ban sect, says institute; experts doubt it

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am

Action should be taken against the Hong Kong Falun Gong using existing legislation if Article 23 cannot be passed, the government has been told.

According to Wong Chi-wah, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Economic Culture, the Crimes Ordinance and the Societies Ordinance give the government enough power to disband and prosecute the local Falun Gong. Section 5D of the Societies Ordinance - governing groups with ties to international entities with a political agenda - gave the police commissioner the right to void Falun Gong's registration, while Section 8B gave the security chief the right to disband them.

Mr Wong, who was speaking at a forum last week, said the government could then prosecute Falun Gong practitioners using section 9 (on sedition) of the Crimes Ordinance - which covers acts that incite subversion, secession or treason towards the central government. Ignoring these powers would damage Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland and violate the 'one country, two systems' principle provided by the Basic Law, he said.

Most speakers at the forum supported his push for action, and the China Daily subsequently ran an opinion piece saying the Falun Gong 'can be reined in by the local legislations for maintaining law and order in society'.

But Hong Kong law experts remain unconvinced that the government has enough legal ammunition to prosecute and disband the Falun Gong.

Albert Chen Hung-yee, a Hong Kong University law professor and a Hong Kong member of the Basic Law Committee, said that to qualify under the provisions in the Societies Ordinance, the Falun Gong would have to be a 'political body' whose principal function or main objective was to promote or prepare a candidate for an election.

Barrister Phillip Dykes said: 'If [the police commissioner] has the power, he is surely aware of it and is not exercising it because he does not see grounds for it. Many things [that are unlawful] on the mainland are lawful here.'

Simon Young, of the University of Hong Kong, said prosecuting the Falun Gong would be easier said than done.

'From what I know, the Falun Gong uses peaceful means and has no political agenda. Anyone can complain about them but so far there is not enough evidence to meet the condition [to prosecute them],' he said.

Mr Chen warned the government of disastrous consequences if the Crimes Ordinance was used to prosecute Falun Gong.

'Section 9 ... constitutes an excessive restriction on freedom of speech that is inconsistent with ... the Basic Law. Any attempt to enforce it will be perceived as a grave threat to freedom of speech in Hong Kong,' he said.