Church leaders, human rights groups and lawyers in Hong Kong fear that the passing of an anti-sect law in France may pave the way for the Hong Kong government to adopt similar legislation. The concerns among religious and human rights groups stem from a Hong Kong government statement in May that it is studying overseas anti-cult legislation to specifically target the Falun Gong sect.

"Even in France, a country with strong democracy and rule of law, some people still opposed the idea, fearing it would be abused. In such a politicized place as Hong Kong, there would be a great danger that the law would be abused," said Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kuin of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese. He said the (French) law could be used to introduce a similar one in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

"It is very worrying that the government would have a new excuse to rationalize the introduction of such a law," said Rose Wu, the director of the Hong Kong Christian Institute.

Nine Catholic organizations are expected to launch a letter campaign to lobby against the adoption of an anti-sect law.

The director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, Law Yuk-kai, also warned that any anti-sect law could have implications not only for sects but also for mainstream religions. He said an anti-sect law could be used to ban Taoism, Buddhism or even the Catholic Church.

"Hong Kong will pay the price, not just politically but economically, because the world will see Falun Gong's treatment as an indication of freedoms here," Law said. He added that the Falun Gong is likely to oppose the government openly if it is banned, thus encouraging more followers. He also doubted if such a law would stand up in court.

A spokesman for the Security Bureau declined to comment ...

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