Mr. Irwin Cotler: World-Renowned Legal Counsel, McGill U. Law Professor, M.P., and Defender of Innocent and Imprisoned Falun Gong Practitioners
June 2, 2001
On February 15, 2001, when the news came that Ms. Shumei Zhang, the wife of Prof. Kunlun Zhang, had suddenly returned to Canada with help from the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Falun Gong practitioners stayed up until 4-5AM preparing for a press conference to be held at 10AM the next morning.
After that press conference, we learned that one person who had rushed to Ottawa to attend the event was busy preparing relevant statements in English and French and hadn't gone to bed until around 7AM that morning. This person was the volunteer international legal counsel for Prof. Kunlun Zhang, McGill Law professor and Liberal MP (Member of Parliament) Mr. Irwin Cotler.
MPs from different parties played crucial roles in the appeal for Prof. Zhang's release; they used many methods to give us moral support. The most distinguished among them was the internationally renowned human rights activist, lawyer, professor and MP-- Mr. Irwin Cotler. Previously, he has represented such eminent political prisoners as former South African president Nelson Mandela.
When he heard about the persecution of Prof. Zhang, after investigation and study, Mr. Cotler immediately thought that this was a classic prisoner of conscience and criminalization of innocence case. He at once asked to attend our press conference that was to take place on December 7, 2000 at Parliament Hill. Mr. Cotler cancelled a meeting that had been scheduled at 4:00PM that afternoon and suggested that our press conference be held at 3 o'clock. In order to save some time, he booked a plane ticket from Montreal to Ottawa.
Unexpectedly, the press conference could only be held at 1:30PM, because 3:00PM was not suitable for the other MPs' time schedules. Mr. Cotler then decided to cancel both another meeting scheduled at noon that day and his airline reservation. He left Montreal early in the morning and drove all the way to Ottawa. Before coming, Mr. Cotler carefully investigated and researched both Falun Gong and the case of Prof. Kunlun Zhang, then hurried to write a speech. When Mr. Cotler arrived in Ottawa around noon, he didn't take time to rest, but right away met with Prof. Zhang's daughter in Ottawa and asked to be Prof. Zhang's international legal counsel. When, travel-worn, he entered the room for the press conference, everyone that knew the situation was deeply touched. Right after the press conference, he immediately hurried back to Montreal to attend another meeting.
In his capacity as an international legal counsel, Mr. Cotler listed 9 major human rights violations committed by Jiang Zemin and his followers in the crackdown of Falun Gong and persecution of Prof. Zhang. He made six requests to the Chinese authorities, including that China stop persecuting Falun Gong, immediately release Prof. Zhang, and release all Falun Gong practitioners now detained in prisons, forced labor camps, or psychiatric hospitals.
Even more commendable, he not only appealed for Falun Gong practitioners, but also defended the principles of Falun Gong -- "Zhen-Shan-Ren" (Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance). He believes that Falun Dafa's principles embody the essence of traditional Chinese culture, that we all should follow them, and that they should be promoted by society instead of being persecuted.
He effectively communicated with many MPs, especially the Foreign Affairs Minister about the case of Prof. Zhang and Falun Gong and won extensive concern and support. He wrote to and personally delivered a letter to the Prime Minister. During the Christmas season of last year, Mr. Cotler traveled to many countries in Europe and East Asia to attend international meetings. He carried a lot of materials about the truth of Falun Gong with him and appealed to many MPs from over 20 countries to discuss the Falun Gong issue and work together to support Falun Gong.
While in Israel this January, when Mr. Cotler heard that the Chinese Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister was going to lead a Chinese delegation to visit Israel and Palestine, he immediately revised his schedule and arranged to meet the Chinese delegation. Only because Prof. Zhang was unexpectedly released, did he hurry back to Canada.
During our contacts with Mr. Cotler, he has highly praised the peaceful beliefs and the realm of great compassion and tolerance of Falun Gong practitioners. We were also moved by his noble, selfless, and virtuous way of always being considerate of others. He asked us to call his cellular phone directly if we needed to contact him for something, even if it was a weekend or late at night. Whenever there was some progress, he always gave the credit to others and never mentioned himself.
His tolerance, wisdom, patience and diligence, strong will to persist under pressure, and his spirit to insist on truth and uphold justice have touched the Canadian media and Canadian people and won the widespread respect and support from all Canadians.
Now Mr. Cotler is busy seeking the release of Ms. Ying Zhu and Mr. Shenli Lin, the husband of Ms Jingyu Li.
Speech by Mr. Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament and Renowned Human Rights Lawyer at the Celebration of the Canada Falun Dafa Festival on Parliament Hill on May 19, 2001
I am delighted to be with you here today and to share in the common cause which brings us together: the inspiration of and the commitment to the fundamental values of Falun Gong-- Truth, Compassion, Forbearance, which are really the expressions of fundamental, ancient Chinese values that inspire us all. And I'm proud to be here in the presence of professor Kunlun Zhang, who was recently liberated from imprisonment. He is a distinguished artist and sculptor, as I witnessed yesterday when I had the privilege to see his work displayed at the Wellington street gallery. He is not only an exponent for, but also the best example of, those values of Truth, Compassion, and Forbearance. He is a person of moral courage whose freedom we celebrate here today. And Jingyu Li, also a distinguished artist, is the wife of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner, Shenli Lin, who also exemplifies those values of Truth, Compassion, and Forbearance, which are the best values not only for the Falun Gong, but also the best universal values for all of us.
But I want to say that while we commemorate the 9th anniversary of the founding of Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, while we are here in celebration today in this historic festival, we should not forget that Professor Kunlun Zhang should never have been arrested, detained, tortured or imprisoned to begin with, and that thousands upon thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are languishing in prisons, in labour camps, and in mental institutions, for no other reason than that they took the fundamental beliefs that are protected under Chinese law seriously: freedom of conscience and belief, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression, and freedom of information. What we are witnessing today in China is the "criminalization of innocence." They have taken a spiritual meditation exercise group, outlawed it and declared it illegal, then subjected all its members to intimidation, prosecution, persecution, and imprisonment, for no other reason than that they espoused the basic, fundamental values of Truth, Compassion and Forbearance.
And so I say that it must be our responsibility, Canadians all from wherever we are, to speak on behalf of those who cannot be heard, to bear witness on behalf of those who cannot testify, to protect those who put not only their livelihood but indeed their lives on the line, and to affirm and reaffirm and re-commit ourselves to the values of Truth, Compassion and Forbearance--not only as expressions and examples of the best in ancient Chinese values, but as universal norms that inspire us all, wherever we may be.