Hong Kong is a city proud of its legacy of individual rights, but a campaign to deny those rights to Falun Gong practitioners has proceeded systematically and in the open for eight months, while the city’s police stand aside. Hong Kongers are by turns annoyed and alarmed as the character of their city seems to be changing before their eyes.
On the morning of June 10, 2012 Falun Gong practitioners arrived at the Hung Hom train station in Hong Kong as they had every day for the past ten years. They planned on setting up information booths where they would tell people about their spiritual practice and how it is persecuted in China. This day was different, though.
In the spots they would ordinarily occupy, individuals wearing uniform shirts had hung banners that attacked Falun Gong. When the practitioners hung their own banners in other spots, that group hung banners covering the Falun Gong banners. The new group also began blasting communist propaganda through a sound system.
When the practitioners approached police officers, as they had in the past if there were problems at this site, the police refused to get involved.
This group that first popped up at Hung Hom is called the Hong Kong Youth Care Association and since June 10 it has had Falun Gong in Hong Kong firmly in its sights.
The Association’s very simple website claims it is devoted to various charitable enterprises such as helping the poor and contributing to the community.
In fact, the Association appears to be a front organization for a deadly Party organ. A front organization has no public ties to the Chinese Communist Party, but works to isolate and attack the Party’s enemies.
A reporter for Hong Kong’s Next magazine traveled to the office the Association maintains in
Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong in mainland China, and uncovered the Association’s close ties to the CCP.
The Association’s Shenzhen office stands next door to the local 610 Office. The 610 Office—its name comes from the date of its founding, June 10, 1999—is a Party organization tasked by then Communist Party head Jiang Zemin with eradicating Falun Gong.
The Next reporter tried the door for the Hong Kong Youth Care Association, but it wouldn’t open. A staff member from the 610 Office came out to help. “The two associations have the same people,” the staff member said, according to the Next Magazine report.“Two door signs. If you want to find them, come here. That side won’t open.”
The Youth Care Association is headed by Lin Guo-an a member or former member of the pro-communist political party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and currently Special Councilor in of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of Jinggangshan City in southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province, according to Next Magazine.
The journalist Ching Cheong told Radio Television Hong Kong that if the Hong Kong Youth Care Association is a front group, then “the mainland public security people are implementing their laws in Hong Kong.”
Tourists and Tuidang
In 2011, the last year for which numbers are available from the Hong Kong Tourism Commission, Hong Kong hosted 28.1 million tourists from mainland China. Falun Gong practitioners have set up booths at popular tourist sites throughout Hong Kong to reach these tourists.
The booths typically have a table surrounded by banners and placards. The practitioners hand out fliers and may demonstrate Falun Gong’s slow-motion exercises.
The practitioners want to disabuse the mainland tourists of the anti-Falun Gong propaganda they have been steeped in, so they tell them about the practice, and about the cruelties of the persecution against it. And they ask the tourists to renounce any association with the Communist Party—an act called “tuidang” in Chinese.
“The Chinese Communist Party really fears tuidang,” said Juliana Chan, a Falun Gong practitioner and a retired travel agency executive. According to the Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP, over 133 million Chinese have renounced the Party.
“The Youth Care Association seeks to mislead the tourists,” Chan said. “The tourists arrive and they can’t get close to our booths and they see communist propaganda instead.”
On Chinese New Year’s Day, Feb. 10, the police ordered the Youth Care Association and the Falun Gong practitioners each to remove all of their banners from Star Ferry—one of the busiest spots in Hong Kong and a prime tourist attraction.
The next day, Wincy Chan, who regularly helps staff the information site at Star Ferry, said that an army of Association members covered the entire Star Ferry with its banners, including the spot customarily maintained for years by the practitioners. On Feb. 13 the police assigned a spot to the Falun Gong practitioners against a wall so that they would have a place to set up their booth.
The Association then set up a rack with its banners that formed a wall between the practitioners and the public. The Association’s rack was so close to a lane on the sidewalk reserved for the use of the blind that the lane was in effect impassable.
Practitioners called the police, and a video shows what happened next. The Associations’ head, Lin Guo-An, showed no deference to the police, who requested that the banners be moved. He argued heatedly with them, and in the end the police withdrew, leaving the Association’s banners in place.
Falun Gong practitioners tell of the Association trying on a daily basis to completely cover their information booths with banners.
Mandy Liu, an old hand at the information sites, says the police could easily resolve any conflicts between the two groups.
“If the police assigned one spot to the Hong Kong Youth Care Association and another spot to the Falun Gong practitioners, and then enforced their decision, there would be no problems,” Ms. Liu said.