Sect days are few as new law nears

THE Falun Gong sect in Hong Kong has been told by the government its days are numbered as the administration is planning to enact a law to outlaw the group.

A well-informed source told the Hong Kong iMail the message had been passed to the sect through special channels shortly before the Fortune Global Forum.

``The sect understands its situation, its days are numbered,'' the source said.

The iMail reported in March that the Department of Justice had submitted a report to Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee saying the government could follow the French practice and ban ``evil cults'' under ``criminal'' rather than ``national security'' laws and that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa believed such a bill would be an effective means to handle the sect.

The most powerful provision of the law, which France is expected to endorse in June, allows the government to outlaw an organisation if a ``sister group'' has been labelled an evil cult by overseas countries. It also makes ``mental manipulation'' an offence.

It has since been reported that the Security Bureau plans to submit a copy of the French bill to the Executive Council next month for consideration, and then table it in the Legislative Council for endorsement in July before the summer recess.

Mrs Ip would not comment yesterday on the latest reports, which she described as ``speculative''.

Hong Kong Falun Gong convenor Kan Hung-cheung said such legislation would destroy religious freedom in Hong Kong.

``Intellectual and religious freedom would be harmed since the government would be given the right to dismiss any religious party,'' he said. ``I think the legislation is a way for SAR government to suppress Falun Gong activities. As we are a peaceful and lawful party, it is unnecessary for the government to legislate anti-cult laws.''

Hong Kong Christian Institute director Rose Wu Lo-sai said the law would spread fear.

``Whether you're Christian or not, it is a very dangerous move and will arouse fear among religious groups,'' Ms Wu said.

``It would give the government an excuse to ban a religious group or cult based on their own political interest - how can the Hong Kong government stand up for `one country, two systems'?''

Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan called the proposed law ``dangerous'', saying it would violate people's freedom of thought.

``It would mark the beginning of a totalitarian system,'' Mr Ho warned.