Hong Kong immigration authorities reportedly denied entry to 33 Falun Gong members from Taiwan who were planning to protest on Sunday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The travellers were planning to join the march opposing the Hong Kong government’s extradition law update – which ended up being one of the biggest protests since the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

CNA reported that the 33 people arrived in Hong Kong on Friday, but were detained at the airport and sent back in groups.

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Falun Gong. File photo: Dan Garrett.

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice combining exercises, meditation and moral philosophy. In 1999, it was declared an “evil cult” by mainland Chinese authorities after Beijing became wary of its popularity and capacity to organise members. Practitioners have accused the government of torture and organ harvesting.

In a statement, the Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases. Each immigration decision is made according to applicable laws and policies, as well as the individual circumstances of the case, it added.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles cross-straits affairs, has expressed concern and regret over the incident.

The Council said that the Hong Kong government should not mistreat Taiwan citizens who hold valid immigration documents, and their rights to express opinions legally should be respected.

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Immigration Tower. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

According to Apple Daily, immigration authorities in 2010 also turned away six technicians trying to enter Hong Kong as part of the Shen Yun theatre trope – a production backed by the Falun Gong.

In December, Hong Kong also denied work visa applications for Taiwanese heavy metal band ChthoniC. The band advocates independence for the island, which Beijing insists is Chinese territory.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.