It’s early afternoon in a well-lit meeting hall in Wan Chai, and more than 100 people are listening to a lecture by a well-known doctor of Chinese medicine and martial arts who has flown in from the United States.
His subject is: “Morality and a healthy lifestyle and well-being”.
The half-dozen security men stationed around the hall provide a hint that this is no ordinary event but one arranged by members of the Falun Gong (FLG) community in Hong Kong.
The movement was banned in July 1999 by Beijing, which denounced it as a “heretical organisation” and has since detained thousands of its members.
Dr. Li Youfu shows on a screen disturbing images from the mainland of damaged fetuses, rivers full of plastic and waste and other environmental degradation.
“Six or seven years ago, 70 per cent of the water in the mainland was not fit to drink,” he says. “
This is the result of moral decline. Morality is the basis of everything. But China’s leaders do not talk of morality.
“Many hospitals sell fake medicine. Doctors are preoccupied with making money, not caring for patients. There are many sad outcomes.”
One slide in the presentation calls for people to leave the Communist Party and for its extinction.
Hong Kong is the only place in China where FLG can operate openly.
It is among the most anti-Beijing groups in the city.
It has called for former president Jiang Zemin, who imposed the ban in 1999, to be sent to the International Court of Justice in the Hague to be tried for the deaths of its members that it says have resulted from the ban.
As a result, it is under close surveillance by mainland security agents in Hong Kong.
“The Communist Party uses terror to frighten people,” one of FLG’s members says.
“But it does not frighten us. We are only doing good. Our teacher [Li Hong-zhi] tells us to be good people.
“Look at the retribution given to the party – environmental degradation, corruption and bribery and the loss of morality and manners. It does not teach morality.”
He says it is difficult to give the number of members in Hong Kong, since some people perform the spiritual practice at home and do not make contact with others.
“We have members in the mainland who continue to practice,” he says.
“We do not fear death. I do not hide my membership of FLG from friends and colleagues.”
One man tries to disrupt the meeting but is held back by the security guards.
Those in the audience say there was a similar person at the other lecture given by Dr. Li in Hong Kong.
Most of the questions to him from the audience concern illnesses and ask for his advice in curing them.
The Chinese edition of Epoch Times, the group’s daily newspaper, lists 23 places in Hong Kong where people can practice and refers them to a website for further information.
It lists the address and telephone number of a shop in Yau Ma Tei that sells books and tapes.
The paper says it prints 1.5 million copies a day in 22 languages.
One of FLG’s most serious allegations against the government is that it harvests organs from FLG members in detention and sells them for thousands of dollars to those who want them.
In 2014, investigative journalist Ethan Gutman published a report that estimated that about 64,000 FLG prisoners may have been killed for their organs between 2000 and 2008.
Bill Cox, a reporter for Epoch Times in Hong Kong, says the harvesting is still going on.
“Ordinary prisoners are not healthy, because they smoke, drink and take drugs.
“FLG members are healthy. When they enter labour camps, tissue and blood samples are taken from them.
“You can go to China and order an organ, which will be delivered within two weeks.”
Beijing strongly denies the allegations, saying “they are totally a lie fabricated by Falun Gong”.
The group has taken its campaign against Beijing to the streets of Hong Kong, handing out leaflets and fliers at popular tourist sites, where they want to reach visitors from the mainland.
In retaliation, pro-Beijing groups have organised protests against them at the same places.
Most analysts believe that, as long as Jiang remains alive, the ban on FLG cannot be lifted.
He is 89 and still active in public life.
Beijing describes FLG as an “evil cult, a ‘sect’ and riddled with ‘superstition”.
It considers it a threat to national security.
The future of the group in Hong Kong is a barometer of the city’s civil liberties.
Given its possibly large membership in the mainland, it ranks among the mainland government’s principal enemies in Hong Kong.
Will Beijing take action against it similar to the kidnapping of bookseller Lee Bo?
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