The trial that may determine the survival of religious freedom in Hong Kong will be held on October 18.
Hu Aimin, a 47-year-old man, was arrested for physically assaulting three Falun Gong practitioners. The practitioners were manning different street stalls reporting on the discipline and persecution they face from the CCP. Hu also destroyed his victims’ stalls and computers. There were three separate attacks on December 13, 19 and 20, 2020.
In the trial that began on August 4, 2022, Bitter Winter, a magazine specializing in religious freedom and human rights, reported that the defense argued that Hu had a “legal excuse” for his crimes because Falun Gong is a xie jiao (religious movements that the CCP considers hostile to its stability). And it is the duty of patriotic Chinese citizens to stop it. Later, the defense announced a different strategy. It would rely on the National Security Law and the fact that Falun Gong is an illegal organization and should be banned in Hong Kong. The judge excluded supposed expert witnesses who would prove the alleged “evil” of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline. But then facing the National Security Law approach, the judge decided to adjourn the case to consult with the Department of Justice.
At the time of the trial, a group of pro-Beijing activists shouted slogans in support of the defendant, including Legislative Council member Tang Ka-piu. Tang addressed the protesters, saying, “Hu Aimin’s actions were for the security and stability of the country and Hong Kong,” exposing the pressures of the CCP in the case.
Attempts to eliminate the last vestiges of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong are accelerating. The methods used to persecute Falun Gong practitioners resemble those used in China in the early days of persecution, as stated by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR):
“Step by step, the unification of Hong Kong is moving forward. Until recently, it was civil rights and opposition activists who were persecuted in Hong Kong for their work on behalf of freedom and the rule of law, but the CCP has now also started to massively attack the Buddhist-oriented meditation movement Falun Gong, according to the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR).”
Hubert Körper, spokesman for the ISHR China Working Committee, is very concerned that the Falun Gong movement in Hong Kong may face a similar end as the practitioners in mainland China.
The smear campaign includes attacks from CCP-run media outlets such as the Ta Kung Pao newspaper. Its various articles accuse Falun Gong of going against Hong Kong laws, inciting hatred, promoting and anti-communism. The same tactics were used in 1999 in the city of Tianjin. The CCP newspapers spread falsehoods to discredit the discipline throughout the country. Following the attack, around 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners peacefully and silently gathered on April 25, 1999, in front of the Central Petition Office in Beijing (Zhongnanhai) to demand an end to the slander and the release of the detained practitioners. This event was the trigger for the beginning of one of the bloodiest, most sinister and vile persecutions in history.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient Chinese discipline of the Buddha School. It teaches the principles of truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance, as well as a set of qigong exercises. According to the Chinese Communist Party, 70 million to 100 million people practiced the discipline in 1999. This popularity was seen as a threat by the CCP, launching a brutal eradication campaign.
Freedom of the press vs. National Security Law
Media outlets that are not aligned with the CCP narrative are also victims of violence.
The printing press of The Epoch Times newspaper in Hong Kong was attacked in November 2019 by four hooded suspects who set fire to two of the machines. On April 12, 2021, the attacks continued and they smash computers and printing equipment.
Cheryl Ng, spokeswoman for the Hong Kong edition, said the attack was characteristic of the CCP and aimed to silence an independent media outlet from reporting on topics that are taboo for the communist regime. Ng, who condemned the attack, said it was a crime against Hong Kong’s freedom of expression.
The Epoch Times has been characterized as one of the few newspapers in Hong Kong to denounce human rights violations committed by the CCP against ethnic minorities and religious groups. It also provided extensive coverage on the pro-democracy movement and the implementation of the National Security Law. It highlighted the law’s adverse consequences against freedom of the press and the community at large, as did Amnesty International.
As Amnesty International reported there are 10 reasons why we should be concerned about this new law:
“Endangering national security” can mean virtually anything;
The law has been abused from day one;
The law tightens controls on education, journalists, and social networking sites
People could be taken to mainland China for unfair trials
The law applies to everyone on the planet.
Investigating authorities are given sweeping new powers
The Chinese government now has a national security arm in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong government also has a new agency that is not subject to oversight
Human rights protections are at risk of being overturned
The law has already had an immediate chilling effect
On October 18 should the judge declare Hu Aimin innocent, it would mean that any citizen could act in the same way and attack believers. This would mean the end of religious freedom in Hong Kong.