At a time when the fate of the local branch of the Falun Gong is increasingly shaping up to be a crucial test of the preservation of basic freedoms, as well as the whole future of 'one country, two systems', what Hong Kong desperately needs are cool heads and restraint. Since the Government has yet to enact anti-subversion laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law, a process likely to take several years, the sect's presence in Hong Kong falls into a grey area. That is something in no one's interests to clarify, since it has helped avert any confrontation over Falun Gong's activities in the SAR so far. But such ambiguity has become much harder to maintain in the wake of this week's warning from the central Government's Liaison Office over Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong. And it is a delicate balancing act which is now in danger of falling apart, unless all those involved are careful to behave in a responsible and measured manner. That includes local Falun Gong organisers. There is not the slightest legal justification for banning or curtailing their activities - and it is vital not to lose sight of this. But, if they care about Hong Kong, it would be wise for them to show some self-restraint: not least in avoiding unnecessary acts that might prove counter-productive. Meetings with former US presidents who are no longer in a position to wield political power may fall into that category. It also clearly applies to SAR officials. And it has been encouraging to see how most, including Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, have so far been restrained in their rhetoric on this issue. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who was widely reported as accusing the sect's local followers of 'pointing spears' at Beijing. Whatever her intention, this unnecessarily inflammatory remark has already provided those who seek a crackdown on the Falun Gong in Hong Kong with an excuse to intensify their campaign. Mrs Ip would do well to remember that, in addition to being in charge of law and order, she also has a wider duty to put Hong Kong's best interests above all else. That responsibility was poorly served by such ill-judged remarks and it is to be hoped she and her colleagues will learn from this mistake and avoid such provocative rhetoric in future. Hong Kong is entering what may be a testing phase in its relations with Beijing. And, however distasteful some of the Falun Gong's activities may be, it is vital for the community to stand together in defence of the sect's right to practise and protest peacefully if the SAR is to retain its hallmark as a free society.