Adherents of persecuted faith group Falun Gong in Hong Kong are demanding an apology from pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao over a series of articles they said were inciting hate and hurting the last bit of freedom in the city.
Between April 20 and April 29, the outlet ran at least eight articles describing the spiritual practice as an “evil cult,” “superstition,” and “malignant tumor in society.” One article claimed that the Tianti Bookstore, which carries Falun Gong books, was “smuggling poisonous books.”
In an April 29 editorial, the newspaper suggested that the Hong Kong government should outlaw the practice and called the issue a “first imperative.”
Such language is “slanderous” and “incites hate toward Falun Gong” as adherents in mainland China “endured unjustified tribulation,” the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association said in a statement on Monday.
The association demanded that Ta Kung Pao “retract the articles immediately and issue a public apology.”
“The Association also reserves the right to pursue any and all available legal and equitable remedies of Ta Kung Pao’s false reporting and potential libel,” it stated.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, teaches the principles truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, as well as a set of meditative exercises, according to its website. There were around 70-100 million people practicing by 1999, when the Chinese regime saw its popularity as a threat and launched a brutal campaign to eradicate it.
For more than two decades, Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong and elsewhere have been calling attention to the persecution of fellow adherents in mainland China, who run constant risks of arrest, torture, slave labor, and even forced organ harvesting for persisting in their faith.
Yet such efforts in Hong Kong have come under growing pressure since the Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law, which makes anything the regime considers as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces punishable of up to life imprisonment.
In recent weeks, vandals have attacked local Falun Gong information booths with knives and spray paint, toppling seven in a row during a 24-hour-period. The association suspected such attacks were linked to Chinese state agents.
“Hong Kong already has the national security law and will not tolerate anti-China and Hong Kong forces to continue running wild,” the Ta Kung Pao editorial proclaimed. It named several pro-democracy activists, among them publisher Jimmy Lai, who Hong Kong authorities have prosecuted using the new security law, before going on to say that the days for Falun Gong adherents “to remain at large also won’t be long.”
By attempting to direct the Hong Kong government to outlaw Falun Gong, Ta Kung Pao has taken a wrong position and the acts will eventually backfire, the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association said.
“Many deem Falun Gong’s existence the yardstick of freedom in Hong Kong,” the association stated. “Once Hong Kong completely loses freedom of speech and press freedom, Hong Kong will cease to be Hong Kong.”
On Monday, four Falun Gong practitioners held banners in protest of the articles in front of Ta Kung Pao’s main office, the maximum number allowed for public groups under Hong Kong’s social distancing measures.
Zhou Sheng, one of the practitioners at the site, said he saw two suspicious people who appeared to be Chinese state agents at his apartment on April 13. The two, a man and a woman, showed up on his apartment floor claiming to deliver pizza. They couldn’t present a receipt or explain why they needed two people for the delivery when questioned by Zhou, and left hastily after Zhou said he would report them to the police if they came again.
In its series of articles, Ta Kung Pao named two local Falun Gong practitioners, who were interviewed by undercover reporters. Zhou said that those people have experienced sustained harassment that had disrupted their daily lives since the reports were published.
Lau Ching Kwok, a Falun Gong practitioner who was named in the articles, said the outlet changed his words to cast a negative impression on the practice.
“Falun Gong has no secrets, the practitioners here care nothing about fame or money, they are only a group of people who strive to be good,” he said during the protest.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Ta Kung Pao for comment.