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Hong Kong admits to immigration 'blacklist'

Regina Ip
Regina Ip says Hong Kong, like other places, keeps a blacklist  

HONG KONG, China -- Hong Kong's security chief has acknowledged Hong Kong keeps a "blacklist" of unwanted people.

The revelation follows in the wake of nearly 100 members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement being barred from entering the territory earlier in the month.

The spiritual sect, subject of a strident campaign, is banned in China but legal in Hong Kong, a former British colony with some autonomy.

The deportation of the Falun Gong members has raised questions about the possible erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms to please Beijing. Asia
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Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and is run under the "one country, two systems" model.

Speaking at a special session to discuss police actions during an international economic forum held earlier in May, security chief Regina Ip defended the government's decision to local legislators.

"Every immigration department has its own list, the so-called blacklist . . . every government has it," Ip said.

"I can only say such name lists aren't static. They are often updated and the immigration director has the right to decide who can enter and who can't according to the situation."

Hong Kong officials have been criticized for deporting almost 100 overseas Falun Gong members in late April and early May.

They were trying to join protests against Beijing during a visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Hong Kong for a business forum.

Ip met diplomats from a number of countries, including the United States and Australia, last week to address their concerns over the barring of their nationals during the economic forum.

Dismiss criticism

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa dismissed media criticism of Hong Kong's decision to turn away the Falun Gong members.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa
The Falun Gong group has put Tung in a dilemma  

"We have every right to bar people who come into Hong Kong solely to demonstrate and disrupt or disturb an important international economic forum," he said.

Tung made his comments in an interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Washington Times and United Press International (UPI) published on Monday.

Hong Kong's chief executive said the January public suicide attempt by alleged members of the Falun Gong in Beijing reminded him of the Jonestown mass cult suicide in 1978.

In the clearest sign to date that Hong Kong may enact laws to curb the group, he said: "We have to protect our own people and system and we cannot afford to wait for a Jonestown-type incident before acting."

Tung said of Falun Gong: "It's a bit of a cult. Many have been willing to die for it and I was shocked to see cultists willing to burn themselves on Tiananmen Square."

He was referring to an apparent suicide attempt by alleged Falun Gong members in January. A mother and her daughter, 12, died after the incident.

"It is eerily reminiscent of the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana . . . That too was a mix of cult and politics. Obviously we're watching them very carefully here," Tung said.

More than 900 disciples of the American Reverend James Jones drank cyanide-laced Cool-Aid at his Jonestown colony in Guyana in South America in what may be the largest mass suicide in history.

Falun Gong, which claims millions of followers in more than 40 countries, denies such fanaticism and says it is a peaceful spiritual group being persecuted ruthlessly by Beijing.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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