Security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee yesterday listed what she said were the characteristics of a cult in her most detailed speech on such groups' activities. She said existing laws were sufficient to tackle cults, but the Government could not afford to let its guard down.
In a speech entitled "Understanding Cults: Salvation or Illusion," Mrs Ip scrupulously avoided mentioning the Falun Gong by name, instead referring to a "particular group". But during her speech she was seen holding a book entitled Falun Gong and Evil Cults.
Speaking at a lunch held by the Outstanding Young Persons' Association in Admiralty, Mrs Ip pointed to academic studies and government action overseas. She quoted American academic Margaret Singer on the nine general characteristics of a cult, which included requiring total commitment from followers to reach "enlightenment" and a complete change of lifestyle.
"I'm sure you can judge for yourself whether any particular group is such that it comes within the definition of a cult," Mrs Ip said. She insisted the doctrines of a "particular group" in Hong Kong advocated superstition. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa branded the Falun Gong as "no doubt, an evil cult" last month.
The remarks were confirmed as the Government's position by Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday. Mrs Ip yesterday maintained that any group could operate in the territory as long as it did not break the law: "We have already studied [our criminal law]. We think it is sufficient."
But she said the Government had to be ready to consider legislation if any group took actions that were not covered by existing laws. "Fraud, encouraging one to commit suicide, all these are covered under the existing law. And therefore we don't need new laws," she said. "But if there were some new development or new situation in future which the existing law cannot handle, of course it will be different," she said.
National People's Congress deputy Allen Lee Peng-fei, who was at the lunch, said the Government could not crack down on Falun Gong as long as it remained a lawful group. Mrs Ip rejected suggestions the Government contradicted itself by monitoring and criticising the doctrines of Falun Gong while studying a French cult law that targets actions rather than beliefs.