Falun Gong ignores requests and posts new banners in city
Spiritual group argues that it has the right of assembly, but opponents say their show is over
Jolie Ho and Simpson Cheung
Falun Gong banners are on display again at two of the city's busiest areas in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui after a brief disappearance.
Following government action last week a bitter banner war which had broken out between the Falun Gong spiritual movement and the Youth Care Association, a pro-establishment group, was temporarily suspended. Warning letters were issued to both groups informing them that those who erected banners were liable to fines of up to HK$10,000 and a daily fine of HK$300.
But yesterday Joanna Lau Wai-hing, a Falun Gong follower at a booth in Causeway Bay, said it was legal to put up banners there as they were only assembling in small groups.
"[Public] assembly is not banned by the Food, and Environmental Hygiene Department and we do not have to file any application if we have fewer than 30 people," she said. "The government had to do something because they received complaints after the Youth Care Association's disturbance."
Lau also said that members of the Youth Care Association had been hindering the group's propaganda by obscuring their posters and taking pictures of people who took their leaflets.
For years Hongkongers have been used to seeing protests organised by Falun Gong in Causeway Bay, at ferry piers and outside MTR stations. But a banner war broke out late last year when the Youth Care Association begun putting up numerous anti-Falun Gong banners in the same places. More than 100 banners from both groups could be seen at the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui until last week.
Lam Kwok-on, the Youth Care Association's spokesman, said his group would not put up banners again because its aim was to make the government clear away all the unsightly banners. He was disappointed the government had not fulfilled its promise.
A spokesman for the department only said some 304 warnings had been issued since April 2 and it would take enforcement action later. He did not say what action would be taken on the newly erected banners.
The Court of Final Appeal ruled in 2004 that eight Falun Gong practitioners staging a protest outside the Central Government Liaison Office in 2002 with banners were not obstructive.