Parliamentary question by Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission
(20 August 2002)

Subject: Condemnation of 16 members of the Falun Gong movement in Hong Kong

On 14 March 2002, 16 members of the Falun Gong movement (four Swiss nationals, one New Zealander and 11 citizens of Hong Kong) were carrying out a peaceful hunger strike outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong, in support of their demand that killings of innocent people in China must stop. It is clear from various photographs and video recordings that they were demonstrating in a peaceful fashion, represented no threat to law and order and were not obstructing pedestrians. Despite this, the Hong Kong police removed them by force. On 15 August 2002, the demonstrators were put on trial and charged with obstructing the traffic and attacking the police. The trial ended with them being found guilty of 'obstructing law and order', as well as on six other charges, and they were sentenced to payment of a fine of 29 300 Hong Kong dollars (approximately EUR 3750).

What information does the Commission have on these events? What action has it taken, or what action does it intend to take, to secure the annulment of the sentences handed down to these 16 members of the Falun Gong movement? In more general terms, what action has the Commission taken, or what action does it intend to take, to put pressure on the Hong Kong government to ensure respect for fundamental rights, and, especially, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief and the freedom to meet and demonstrate in public?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(20 September 2002)

The Commission is aware of the decision of a Hong Kong court issued on 15 August 2002 against 16 Falun Gong practitioners who had demonstrated in front of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Republic Government in Hong Kong. They had been charged for public obstruction and other offences during that demonstration. The Court fined each defendant between 150 and 500 €.

With respect to the Falun Gong situation in mainland China, the Union has on several occasions urged China to review harsh sentences imposed on Falun Gong practitioners, through demarches as well as through the structured Union/China dialogue on Human Rights. In particular, the Commission has requested China to ensure that safeguards of a fair trial, including adequate legal representation, are fully respected. Concern about the violations of the human rights of the followers of Falun Fong was also expressed in the March 2002 conclusions of the General Affairs Council on Human Rights in China. As to Hong Kong, it is the first time that Falun Gong members have been collectively prosecuted as a result of actions organised by the group. According to our information, the Court’s verdict is currently subject to appeal.

In terms of the overall political situation in Hong Kong, including respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, the Commission considers that four and a half years after the hand-over of Hong Kong to China, the ‘One Country, Two Systems‘ principle continues to work reasonably well, and that Hong Kong, in general, preserved its rule of law, human rights, civil liberties and free and open society. However, since the actual implementation of these principles has indeed given rise to some debate and uncertainty, the Commission will continue to follow the developments in Hong Kong very closely.