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Ottawa Citizen: Persecuted artists show work Four Falun Gong practitioners hope exhibit exposes truth

May 24, 2001 |   Rybev Wake

May 17, 2001

Renowned sculptor Kunlun Zhang says there are three periods in his life as an artist: before Falun Gong, after Falun Gong, and post-persecution.

The final period follows his release from China last summer, where he spent three months in a labour camp before pressure from Canada prompted his release.

Today, Mr. Zhang will unveil his newest sculpture at an art exhibit on Wellington Street. Called "Black Chair Cannot Cover the Sky," it's designed to tell people the truth about the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice designed to improve mind, body and spirit through gentle exercise and meditation Mr. Zhang said his artistic motivation was the gratitude he felt towards Canada for helping him escape the torture he was experiencing in the Chinese jail.

"Without your support, I'd still be in China, in a jail" he said through a translator.

Mr. Zhang is one of four artists whose work will be on display at an invitation-only exhibit at 180 Wellington St. today. The exhibit moves to the Congress Centre on Saturday, where it will be open to the public, from 10 am. to 6 pm.

The other three artists, Cuiying Zhang, Jinyu Li and Kathy Gillis, are all Falun Gong practitioners. All but Ms. Gillis, a "caucasian" practitioner and artist from Ottawa, have been persecuted for their beliefs.

Ms. Zhang, who is an Australian citizen, spent eight months in prison in China in 1999. She says she was severely beaten, shackled, dragged by her hair, prodded with electric devices and stripped and placed in male prisons.

Ms. Li's husband is still in a labour camp in China, where he has spent the past 14 months for supporting Falun Gong.

It's only been over the last few weeks that Ms. Li, who has always loved painting, has even been able to pick up a paint-brush. Last night, the soft-spoken woman was excited about showing her work for the first time since her husband's arrest.

Although she cries every time she reads a newspaper article about Falun Gong persecution - and says she has been denied a visa to visit her husband in China - she says she has started painting again because it's what her husband would want.

"I do paintings of peace because that was his hope. That's what he'd want;' she said. "It's really, really good inner peace in my heart. Painting brings my inner hope out:'

All the artists say they hope the art show, which coincides with the Falun Dafa Festival in Ottawa running until May 21, Will bring more exposure to Falun Gong persecutions.