Part XII: Falun Dafa Information Center 2008 Annual Report
A number of Falun Gong adherents were denied entry to the territory in the weeks surrounding the Olympic games and related events, including an American citizen and a British academic of Chinese descent. At least two Hong Kong residents were sentenced to prison in China during the year for their involvement with Falun Gong.
While Falun Gong continued to be practiced freely in Hong Kong and local adherents were permitted to carry out peaceful protests, the trend from previous years of practitioners from outside the territory being denied entry during “sensitive” times continued in 2008.
In March 2008, shortly before the arrival of the Olympic torch, several Taiwanese Falun Gong adherents were denied entry, as they sought to join a Human Rights Torch Relay, according to Hong Kong’s Falun Dafa Association spokesman Kan Hung-cheung.
On July 27, Leeshai Lemish, a U.S. citizen and Falun Gong practitioner who had traveled previously to the territory on multiple occasions, was blocked from entering. According to the Taipei Times, Lemish was coming from Taiwan as part of a research trip through Asia and had traveled to Hong Kong to apply for a visa to another country. After being held at the airport for three hours, he was put on a plane back to Taiwan with no explanation other than that he did not meet “Hong Kong immigration requirements.” Lemish had been traveling as a translator and assistant to author Ethan Gutmann, who is researching the persecution of the Falun Gong.
On the day of the Olympics’ closing ceremony at the end of August, Dr. Shao Li, a professor living in the U.K. traveled to Hong Kong as an independent examiner for the University of Central Lancashire in order to approve degree certification for prospective students. He was denied entry, possibly in relation to his efforts to expose the sentencing of his sister-in-law to “re-education through labor” and call for her release.
On August 29, Daniel Ulrich, a Swiss citizen living in Taipei was prevented from entering the territory. He had traveled as a professional photographer to pick up equipment for his company from a Hong Kong supplier. Though he presented evidence of his purchase to immigration officers, Ulrich was quickly put back on a flight to Taipei.
Hearings were conducted during the year for a related lawsuit against the immigration authorities over a 2003 incident in which 80 Taiwanese Falun Gong adherents were barred entry. The final hearings of the case, seen by many of observers as a key test of Hong Kong’s continued adherence to the rule of law, are scheduled for March 2009.
During the year, there were at least two reports of Hong Kong residents who had traveled to China being sentenced to prison because of their involvement with Falun Gong:
Mr. Chen Jinshu, 49—On January 29, 2008, Bao’an District Court in Shenzhen, Guangdong province sentenced Chen, a Hong Kong resident and Falun Gong adherent, to six years in prison in a closed-door trial.
Chen had been detained in April 2007, while visiting his elderly father in China. He was then charged with shipping copies of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party to the Mainland. The book, an editorial series on the history of the Chinese Communist Party, is banned in China, but circulated freely in Hong Kong. Chen’s family and lawyer have denied the charges, stating that the said case had already been closed in 2005 when another Falun Gong adherent was sentenced.
On January 8, 2008, Lin, a Hong Kong resident and Falun Gong adherent, was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison. Lin was arrested on September 24, 2006 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, along with several local adherents, but was allowed to leave the police station following international pressure. She subsequently spent most of 2007 under house arrest at a relative’s home. Police confiscated her Home Visit Permit (Mainland travel permit for Hong Kong and Macao residents), and personal ID, thereby preventing her from returning to Hong Kong.