The recent media campaign against a spiritual practice and the harassment of its followers in Hong Kong is “deeply concerning,” Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chief executive of the NGO Hong Kong Watch, said on Tuesday.
Since April 20, Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong media outlet widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has published a series of slanderous articles attacking Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, a Buddha-school spiritual discipline that has been suppressed in China for 22 years.
The media campaign is reminiscent of a similar campaign in mainland China in 1999 when the Chinese regime started its persecution of Falun Gong.
It also came as Sarah Liang, a reporter at The Epoch Times Hong Kong edition, was stalked and harassed by strangers, and after The Epoch Times’ printing press and multiple Falun Gong information stands were sabotaged.
The Epoch Times has broken several stories over the years about the Chinese regime, such as the covering up of the SARS epidemic, and mass forced organ harvesting from victims including Falun Gong practitioners, house Christians, and the Uyghurs. It’s also one of the few media outlets in Hong Kong that remain independent of the authorities.
Threats To Falun Gong Illustrate Erosion Of Religious Freedom
In a statement to the British Falun Dafa association in support of its protest at the Chinese embassy in London on Tuesday, Rogers said these recent events are “totally unacceptable.”
With freedom of expression, assembly, and association and political freedom already disappeared, “the growing threats to Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong represent a deeply concerning situation, and illustrate the increasing infringements of freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong,” he wrote.
Rogers said that in his experience, Falun Gong practitioners “represent the beautiful values of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, and offer nothing but generosity, kindness, and hospitality.”
He urged the Chinese regime “to desist from [the] persecution of Falun Gong anywhere and to cease threats to restrict Falun Gong practice in Hong Kong.”
Rogers also urged the regime to “respect the basic right for everyone, everywhere, of all religions and faiths, and those of no faith,” and called on the international community to speak out in defence of human rights in Hong Kong.
‘Keep The Flame For Democracy’
Simon Cheng, the founder of Hongkongers in Britain, attended the rally to support Falun Gong practitioners.
“It’s not about politics, it’s not about what we trust or believe. It’s just about the basic dignity [that] should be shared among all humankind,” Cheng said during his speech.
“We should have the freedom of religion. We also have to stand against all arbitrary power,” he said.
Besides The Epoch Times, another independent media in Hong Kong, Apple Daily, has also been under attack.
Pro-Beijing media and government officials in Hong Kong have set their sights on efforts to shut down the Apple Daily, as its founder was sentenced on April 16 to 14 months in prison for participating in Hong Kong’s mass anti-Beijing and pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Cheng told The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD that the attacks on the press in Hong Kong are an alarming signal to the world.
“Every movement that the [authorities] attack on the media would be the signal for all of us who care about freedom to stand together,” he said, adding that dissidents in Hong Kong used to worry about their career prospects, but now they have to consider their safety.
“I think this situation is at the level that we cannot simply turn a blind eye from it. So that’s why we need to speak out,” Cheng said.
“And it’s not the time that we can still engage with the Chinese regime and believe that they could change someday.”
Cheng told NTD that the CCP has proven over the years that it always suppresses people wherever it gets into power. “I worry about the journalists, I worry about the printing [presses] … and I’m pretty sad for that.”
Cheng also said it was “very encouraging” to see people gathering in the rain to practice their faith and express their belief in freedom and democracy.
Falun Gong practitioners “believe in what is righteous shall win, maybe not now, but they will in the future,” Cheng said. “Because we believe in humanity. That’s why we stand here,” he said during his speech.
Asked about the general atmosphere in Hong Kong at the moment, Cheng said there’s fatigue.
When hearing bad news, it once felt like “the plot or the story from the novel,” Cheng said, “but now it’s becoming [an] undeniable reality and then they gradually getting used to it.”
Cheng said that’s why he respects Liang and those who are “brave enough to take the lead,” “still stand there,” and “still have a protest against the state media, the propaganda mouthpiece.”
“I think it’s so important to remind the people, to rekindle the passion of the people to go on, to move on. So still keep the flame for democracy,” he said.
Ta Kung Pao continues to publish slanderous articles on Falun Gong. By Wednesday, 12 such articles had been published.
Reporting by Jane Werrell of NTD