In a potentially significant case for the future of religious freedom in Hong Kong, a local court has found a guilty a man who vandalized information stands promoting the Falun Gong spiritual practice and attacked several practitioners.
The defendant, 47-year-old Hu Aimin, or Wu Oi-man in Cantonese, was arrested on Dec. 24, 2020 following several incidents that month in which he physically attacked the Falun Gong information stalls in the Wong Tai Sin district of Kowloon and assaulted three adherents of the practice.
Falun Gong, a traditional meditative discipline, is subject to heavy persecution by the communist regime in mainland China, but still freely practiced in Hong Kong. Falun Gong adherents have long strived to raise awareness about the deadly campaign against their faith, as well as exposing the deleterious ideology and misrule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Hu had defended his actions at the time as “patriotic” and in line with the spirit of the National Security Law, which the Party imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020. He claimed that Falun Gong’s public assemblies were “illegal,” that they “insulted the country,” and that he had the “right to unilaterally enforce the law.”
However, presiding magistrate at the West Kowloon court, Lee Chi Ho, rejected this defense in his Oct. 31 ruling as “twisting words to support a fallacious argument.”
By Hu’s mistaken reasoning, the magistrate said, one could “commit murder, theft, or property damage using the National Security Law” as cover as long as it involved “speech insulting the country.”
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The case surrounding Hu’s actions has seen several delays. His trial began on Aug. 4 this year, but a court decision scheduled for Aug. 18 was postponed to Oct. 18, then again to Oct. 31.
And while Lee’s Oct. 31 ruling finds that Hu committed vandalism, the ultimate verdict is postponed to Dec. 1. Moreover, Hu’s alleged assault against the Falun Gong practitioners was not included among the charges for which he was found guilty.
The NSL bans all expression and assembly Beijing deems threatening or insulting to the communist Chinese state and its sovereignty. Thousands of Hongkongers have been arrested under the authoritarian law; whom them the organizers of the 2019-2020 pro-democracy demonstrations, members of the Hong Kong Alliance dedicated to the memory of the Tiananmen Massacre, independent media mogul Jimmy Lai, and recently, a Protestant pastor accused of sedition and seditious speech.
While Falun Gong has not yet been banned in Hong Kong and its street stalls continue to operate legally, the faith group has come under heightened pressure as the CCP’s overt control over the city grows, with the practice’s adherents being harassed or assaulted and their media operations attacked by unknown assailants.
Meanwhile, though pro-communist political figures in Hong Kong have pressured the city’s government to take more mainland-style measures against Falun Gong, officials have thus far sidestepped the issue.
An earlier version of this article erroneously said that charges, rather than guilt, had been established in Hu Aimin’s case. Vision Times regets the error.