Falun Gong Followers Appeal Charges

The Associated Press/August 18, 2002
By Helen Luk

Hong Kong -- Sixteen Falun Gong followers found guilty of public obstruction for protesting against China have filed an appeal against their convictions, a local spokesman for the meditation group said Sunday.

Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said they lodged an appeal with the courts on Saturday against a magistrate's ruling Thursday.

Kan called the ruling groundless, and said: "The court only based its judgment on evidence from the prosecution.''

Magistrate Symon Wong convicted the practitioners of causing an obstruction outside the Chinese government liaison office here during a March 14 protest and fined them between $167 and $487.

He did not jail anyone, although some of the defendants were found guilty of more serious offenses including assaulting the police.

Falun Gong members say the convictions are a sign that China is exporting mainland-style suppression to this former British colony. Although Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule five years ago, it retains many Western-style liberties such as freedom of speech.

Hong Kong followers of Falun Gong, outlawed on mainland China as an "evil cult,'' often protest against Beijing's suppression of the group, which remains legal in Hong Kong.

The court writ filed on Saturday said "conviction is against the weight of the evidence,'' according to Kan.

Hong Kong officials and magistrate Wong, who delivered the verdicts, insisted that the case had nothing to do with the practice of Falun Gong meditation.

The convicted Falun Gong followers include four Swiss and one New Zealand resident.

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