Immigration officials keep a blacklist of undesirables, the Hong Kong security secretary said yesterday at a hearing where lawmakers from the special administrative region demanded to know why Falun Gong followers recently were bar-red from entering.
Hong Kong had previously denied there was any blacklist of the 100 Falun Gong meditation sect adherents turned away at the airport ahead of an appearance by Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) early this month.
Secretary of Security Regina Ip acknowledged for the first time yesterday that a blacklist exists, but she declined to be drawn on whether any Falun Gong members are on it.
"In each country, the immigration authorities are aware of the fact that there is a list of people, you may say it's a `blacklist' as termed by the media," Ip told a legislative hearing.
"Each government has such a list. It's not a list that doesn't ever change. It's subject to review from time to time."
Ip said Hong Kong's blacklist is drawn up by the head of immigration and is based on several considerations, including an individual's motivation for trying to enter, political and cultural circumstances in Hong Kong at the time and the person's background.
Ip reiterated the decisions to bar the Falun Gong followers were made according to individual considerations and she said they were not politically motivated.
Dozens of foreign followers of the Falun Gong meditation sect were allowed into Hong Kong ahead of the Fortune Global Forum conference this month, which also was attended by former US president Bill Clinton, but about 100 were kept out.
Falun Gong followers have maintained there was a blacklist, with some saying immigration officials appeared to use special code numbers when stopping people at passport control.
Falun Gong has been declared illegal and subjected to a severe crackdown in China, where the government has been alarmed by the group's organizational abilities, but it is still permitted in Hong Kong.
However, the Hong Kong government last week disclosed it is looking into how other countries deal with cults -- a move widely believed to be targeted at Falun Gong.
Opposition lawmakers accused the government of abusing police power in what critics have called the harsh handling of protesters outside the Fortune global conference.
Three activists were charged with obstructing the activities of the police during a minor scuffle.
"I worry that the secretary has no regret about this whatsoever," said pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau. "That is contrary to the expectations of the Hong Kong community."
Opposition legislator Cheung Man-kwong warned unnecessary force could put the public at odds with the police.
Around 10 activists showed up to protest outside the hearing, holding up a banner which said: "Abuse of police power, betrayal of human rights."