The banner war between Falun Gong and an organisation opposing the spiritual movement has escalated, with both groups trying to cover up each others' banners around the city.
Falun Gong believer Lau Wai-hing, who is responsible for the group's Causeway Bay booth near the Sogo department store, said eight of the group's booths have been disturbed by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association over the past several months.
"As far as our Causeway Bay booth is concerned, at first [the association] set up their booth next to us. But on January 27, at about 2am, more than 10 of them came and covered up our banners," Lau said at the Causeway Bay booth yesterday.
In Causeway Bay yesterday, the association had put up several banners surrounding Falun Gong's booth and banners. The banners reading, "Life is valuable, stay away from the evil Falun Gong", were about three metres tall.
Lau said her group's booths at eight locations, including Wong Tai Sin, Tung Chung and Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, have all been disturbed in this way.
She alleged the association was affiliated with the central government's liaison office and that it had been set up to crack down on Falun Gong.
However, an association member who gave his name as Lam denied the claims.
He stressed his association was set up by people from "other district-level groups in the New Territories" last June.
He added that if Falun Gong really teaches people the spirit of goodwill, his association would not be covering up its banners.
Hongkongers have had a mixed reaction to the banner wars. One man passing the Causeway Bay booth yesterday said both groups had the right to express their views, while another woman said the banners and booths were blocking the roads and looked ugly.
The latter view was shared by People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen. "Both sides have been competing to outsize the other recently; this has seriously affected Hong Kong's streetscape," he said.
In a reply to Chan last month, food and health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said most of these banners did not have permission from the Lands Department - a requirement when putting up banners in public.
Chan said a month had gone by "with no concrete improvement". "I doubt if the government has done anything to address this," Chan said. He speculated that political factors could be a reason for the inaction.
Ko said that if banners were thought to be a hazard to pedestrians and motorists, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department would refer the cases to the police for follow-up action
Police said yesterday figures relating to such investigations were not immediately available.