Media Credit: Lisa Cavion, Varsity Staff

Jinyu Li

Members of the U of T community recently came together to organize efforts to help Jinyu Li, a Canadian citizen whose husband has been imprisoned in a Chinese labour camp for practicing Falun Gong.

"I have had no chance to talk to my husband," stated Li at a press conference on Tuesday. "Anything could happen to [the Falun Gong practitioners] in the labour camps, and we don't know."

Jason Loftus, a member of the Friends of Falun Gong at U of T, explained that in China Falun Gong practitioners may be arrested for practising or being known to practice the art.

"Falun Dafa is a practice of mind and body gentle exercises and it has some moral principles," explained Loftus.

According to Loftus, the Chinese government originally welcomed Falun Dafa, but because of its subsequent popularity, it was felt to be a threat.

In addition to the efforts of the Friends of Falun Gong, SAC university affairs commissioner Justin Saunders put forward a resolution to support Falun Gong, which was passed almost unanimously at SAC's annual general meeting. SAC has also written letters of support, and sent appeals to other universities to take up the struggle against Falun Gong persecution.

"In December 1999, my husband and I went to the Beijing appeals office to give suggestions to the Chinese government," said Li.

"We wrote down our opinions, and filled out forms stating that we are Falun Gong practitioners. They detained us the next day three policemen escorted us back to Shanghai. My husband was detained and sent to a detention centre. One month later he was transferred to a labour camp. I was deported to Canada within 48 hours."

Four months later, Li received official notice of her husband's imprisonment. She said that she has tried to go back to China to visit her husband, but her applications for a visa have been denied.

Li recently returned from a United Nations meeting in Geneva, where she launched an appeal to stop the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

"I ask that they just let us live like everyone else," said Li. "Let us have the basic human rights to do our exercises and practice our beliefs."

She added that she is extremely appreciative of all the help she has received in Canada, including over 90 letters of support from professors. "I feel like I'm in a big family here," she reflected.

Loftus stressed the need for the Canadian government to voice concern over the treatment of Falun Gong members in China.

"Canada is traditionally a very quiet country, and if it can speak up at the United Nations by co-sponsoring resolutions, their voice carries a lot of weight," he said.