Exhibition targeting Falun Gong as evil cult begins in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, Reuters

A three-day exhibition aimed at portraying the Falun Gong spiritual movement as an evil cult opened on Saturday in Hong Kong, where the movement is legal though outlawed in mainland China.

The display of more than 200 pictures and photographs organized by pro-Beijing groups in the former British colony classed Falun Gong alongside some of the world’s deadliest cults, such as Japan’s doomsday Aum Shinri Kyo.

“We hope Hong Kong citizens, through this exhibition, can increase their understanding of cults…This can help maintain Hong Kong’s stability,” Jiang Enzhu, head of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, told reporters at the exhibition.

Falun Gong claims to have millions of followers in China and has shocked the ruling Communist Party by its persistence and ability to organize mass protests despite a nationwide crackdown.

How to handle the controversial movement’s activities in this former British colony has become the biggest test to date of the freedoms that Beijing granted Hong Kong when British rule ended in 1997.

A Falun Gong practitioner inside the exhibition hall on Saturday showed a booklet containing pictures of fellow adherents being tortured by Chinese authorities. Security guards swiftly asked her to leave.

“Look at these pictures, I mean these people are tortured to death, to such an extent that it is really horrible,” practitioner Fiona Ching told reporters. “And so many people haven’t seen these stories yet, so I am afraid they might be misled.”

Human rights groups say more than 100 adherents have died in Chinese police custody of beatings, forced medication or other abuses.

China has acknowledged several Falun Gong deaths in custody, but said they were due to illness or suicide.

Earlier on Saturday, outside Hong Kong’s City Hall where the exhibition is being held, Falun Gong members distributed leaflets about the movement, known as Falun Dafa, which blends Taoism and Buddhism and traditional Chinese physical exercises.

Hui Yee-han, spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Association of Falun Dafa, said on Friday it regretted that Beijing was vilifying the movement with such an exhibition in the territory.

Beijing has warned it will not allow the group to turn Hong Kong into an anti-China base.

Hong Kong security chief Regina Ip hit out at the group earlier this month, calling it a heretical organization whose preaching encouraged superstition.

Beijing has stepped up its attacks on Hong Kong’s Falun Gong movement since about 1,000 adherents from around the world held protests and a conference at the city hall in January.

At the two-day conference, adherents blasted Chinese President Jiang Zemin for ordering the crackdown, discomfiting Chinese officials and pro Beijing figures in Hong Kong.