Canada: Transcript of the Parliamentary Debate on the Motion in Support of Rescuing Falun Gong Practitioners
The following is a record of the debate that took place in Canada's House of Parliament on February 28, 2003 regarding the motion in support of rescuing Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Mr. Scott Reid (MP for Lanark--Carleton) moved
|Motion No. 236|
|That, in the opinion of this House, the Prime Minister should take advantage of his upcoming meeting with President Jiang Zemin of China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference to privately raise the issue of the continued imprisonment in China of thirteen Falun Gong practitioners who have close family ties to Canada, and to emphasize that Canadians would be more willing to strengthen existing trade and aid ties between Canada and China if these individuals (namely, Lizhi He; Xiuzhen Lu; Tianxiong Peng; Zhanzhong Wu; Xiuchao Huang; Bo Qiu; Yueli Yang; Yangtao Jin; Jiangang Huang; Guangshou Huang; Mingli Lin; Zhou Zheng; and Changzheng Sun) were re-united with their families in Canada.|
He said: Madam Speaker, I assure you that I have made many pronunciation mistakes of the same sort, but the people of Falun Gong are very tolerant of those of us who are not perfect in our Chinese pronunciation.
The motion that was just read was unanimously passed, with a slight change in wording, by the House on October 24. The motion that we are debating today is identical in all practical purposes to that motion.
It is very unusual, to say the least, to debate a motion in the House of Commons that has been adopted, for all intents and purposes, four months after the fact of its adoption. This provides us with the unique opportunity to review the unanimous action of the House on October 24, and to see what results it has borne.
At that time, as the wording of the motion indicates, the Prime Minister was departing for Mexico to meet with leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, including the president of China. I drafted and introduced this motion in the belief that any clear signal from the Prime Minister to the president of China, whether delivered in public or in private conversation, as the motion anticipates, would result in an improvement in the treatment of the 13 prisoners of conscience who are named in the motion.
As I imagined it then, the process would have worked something like this: the Prime Minister would spend a moment during his private time with President Jiang Zemin, drawing the attention of the president toward the unanimous will of the House of Commons. The president would probably regard this as an annoyance, but probably he would nevertheless, following this conversation, pass on this information to some underling with the instruction to make this minor irritation go away, so that China's relations with its valued Canadian trading partners might not be impeded by the peculiarly Canadian habit of obsessing over the individual human rights of particular individuals. And in the bowels of the vast Chinese bureaucracy, through a sort of trickle down effect, the appropriate administrators would probably in turn, so I imagined, be advised at the least to improve the conditions and the treatment of the prisoners of conscience and perhaps even to cause the release of some of the individuals named in this motion, simply in order to make this irritation go away.
Other honourable members seem to have agreed with the logic of the scenario that I had imagined and so the motion was passed without the opposition of a single member of Parliament. This kind of unanimous consent is a very rare occurrence in the House. I must say that it makes me proud of all my 300 colleagues and proud to be a member of the same institution as all my 300 colleagues in the House of all parties.
I am happy to report that the unanimous adoption of the motion seems to have resulted in at least the partial achievement of its intended goal. Of the 13 prisoners of conscience named in the motion, 5 have been freed.
Bo Qiu, a 27 year old photographer whose mother lives in Canada, has been released from the Liuchangshan labour camp. Yueli Yang, a 62 year old aerospace engineer and the mother of Zhendong Yang of Toronto, is now out of prison. Tianxiong Peng, whose twin sister lives right here in Ontario, was freed and on Christmas eve was reunited with her two year old daughter.
I would like to quote, if I may, from her twin sister, Helen Peng, who lives in Canada and who writes as follows:
|My wish (for my sister's release) [came true] on Christmas Eve. It is like a dream...I truly appreciate the Canadian [Parliament] and all the others for their kind help and I wish them the very best. I hope each government will help the Falun Gong practitioners persecuted in China and help end this persecution which should never have occurred.|
Even more encouraging in the three names that I have mentioned is the news about Changzheng Sun and Guangshou Huang, both of whom have been freed, and allowed to leave the country. I am happy to report that both Mrs. Sun and Mr. Huang have been reunited with their families here in Canada.
Reports from China indicate that the treatment of some of the other prisoners mentioned in the motion appear to have improved since October, and the evidence suggests that this is the direct result of the fact that the motion was passed in the House on October 24.
Looking back at a distance of four months, it seems to me pretty clear that from a technical or mechanical point of view what actually transpired to cause these positive developments, after the motion was passed in the House of Commons, was something very different from what I had imagined would take place.
Based on reports that I have received from contacts here in Canada, who are themselves in contact with friends and family in China and who have been monitoring the situation of loved ones within the Chinese penal system, it seems that the most important factor was not so much the internal pressure trickling down from on high, but rather the external pressure that the Canadian embassy in Beijing was able to bring to bear with regard to these 13 specific cases.
Canadian embassy officials, acting with impressive energy and efficiency, made it clear to the relevant Chinese authorities, that is to say the governors of the prisons and the administrators of the labour camps in which the 13 practitioners have been imprisoned, that Canada's Parliament and Canada's diplomatic corps was watching. In one particularly colourful and effective gesture, the embassy mailed Chinese New Year cards last month to each of the prisoners of conscience which made a dramatic impression, as members can imagine, upon the administrators who intercepted this mail. It made the point that they were not forgotten, that people were watching and that people in positions of authority cared very much about what happened to them. In the words of one Chinese Canadian with whom I recently talked, "It was as if the people at the Canadian embassy had been given a green light to do all the things they needed to do". It is that which has been the most effective in getting the results that we see today.
To illustrate this point, I would like to read from a letter that I recently received from a Canadian living in Toronto whose 63 year old mother was freed from prison three weeks ago, probably as a result of this motion. He writes:
|At one point, [my mother] was incarcerated in [a] notorious.... Forced Labour Camp... where lots of [Falun Gong] practitioners [have been] killed. I was really worried about her, but there was no way to know if she was still alive...|
The strong reaction of the international community made those in China that started the crackdown very nervous and afraid. It was from then on, that I started to hear about my mother's situation in the labour camp.
The labour camp where my mom was imprisoned started to make a list of all those who have overseas connections...
Because of the efforts of our government, our parliament, as well as the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, my mother was finally released.
...She asked me to pass on her gratitude to all those who have helped with her release. She told me that the rescue efforts overseas have had a great impact in China. Whenever there is any sign of support from outside of China, those in charge of the labour camp became very nervous... and they would go and talk to her about it.
There was one other remarkable action taken as a result of alert Canadian diplomatic officials in the wake of the October 24 resolution, which we are discussing here today. This involved Ms. Yuzhi Wang, who today resides safely in Toronto following a remarkable rescue.
As seems so often to be the case with Falun Gong practitioners, Mrs. Wang had led a quiet and productive life prior to her arrest. She owned a small computer store in Harbin, the capital of Manchuria. When she was arrested and imprisoned several years ago, Mrs. Wang was tortured and force fed.
When she came to Ottawa following her release, I had the opportunity to talk with Mrs. Wang and she described a bit of what was involved in some of the torture that she experienced. Force feeding is really a way of imposing a form of torture on someone. Whether they are on a starvation diet, it is done to torture them without officially being engaged in torture. Their mouths are forced open, a rubber hose is forced down their throat and cold water mixed with wheat flour is poured down their throat. This results in gagging, retching, severe cramps and in some cases vomiting and nausea. Its actual benefits in terms of delivering nutrition to the person in question is highly questionable.
As I said, Mrs. Wang was imprisoned and tortured. She was released from her first sentence in prison when her death as a result of her treatment seemed inevitable. To avoid taking responsibility for her death, the Chinese authorities shipped Mrs. Wang to the United Arab Emirates where she had family members who nursed her back to health. A new warrant for her arrest was issued after Mrs. Wang was sighted at the United Arab Emirates airport by Chinese authorities and it became clear that her health had recovered and that she would not remain meek and quiet about the conditions that she had suffered while in prison.
Local authorities in the United Arab Emirates were contacted by Chinese authorities and were preparing to deport Mrs. Wang back to China on the basis of this warrant for her arrest. Members of the Falun Gong Association of Canada rallied to support her and compiled the relevant documentation to present to the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to save her from deportation and from certain imprisonment, which Mrs. Wang does not believe she would have survived.
Included among the documents that were presented, both to United Arab Emirates authorities and also to Canadian consular authorities in the UAE, was a copy of the motion that had been adopted in the House on October 24. The package of materials seems to have been decisive in causing Canadian consular officials to arrange a ministerial permit for Mrs. Wang to come safely to this country where she now resides.
I would like to dwell for a moment on the question of ministerial permits and the good that they could do in the case of individuals named in this motion who remain in China, whether still in prison or in that curious state of quasi freedom that exists for someone who, like Mrs. Wang following her release, is in perpetual danger of renewed incarceration.
The importance of getting these people out of China whenever possible and to the safety of Canada where they all have family members, husbands, wives, sons or daughters, parents in some cases, waiting to greet them, cannot be overemphasized.
I would like to quote again from Helen Peng, whose twin sister is in China, out of prison but under close observation. She says, "I am sad for the tribulations my sister has endured and I hope she can come soon to the safe environment in Canada". I hope she can too.
The only way to ensure that the treatment of these individuals and other individuals in similar circumstances, including others not mentioned in the motion who also have close family ties to Canada, and to ensure that their rights are respected is to continue to have vigilance, to continue to draw attention to them and to be prepared to issue ministerial permits to allow them to come to this country where they can become productive citizens, as have many other individuals who have been persecuted in China for their spiritual beliefs.
I want to conclude with one individual whose story came to my attention after the motion had already been placed before the House and whose story is particularly sad.
Yunhe Zhang, whose sister lives in Vancouver, is currently in prison. She has a three year old child who never got to see her father. Her father was also in prison and died there a couple of years ago. Yunhe Zhang remains in prison, separated from her child who is being raised by relatives. Her mother-in-law died, a death that members of their family believe was premature, due to the conditions that her son and her daughter-in-law were suffering in prison in China and the stress that was involved in it.
This individual has done no harm to anybody. She believes, as do all members of the Falun Gong movement, in the values that are central to the Chinese culture and to all civilized society. The principles of Falun Gong, an apolitical movement, are a belief in tolerance, compassion and truth.
These individuals have always been productive members of the Chinese society. I am confident that those who would be allowed to come here to Canada on ministerial permits would also be productive members of our society.
I want to take this moment to thank all members of the House who voted in favour of the motion when it was before the House on October 24, 2002 and made it possible for several of these individuals to find their freedom again.
Ms. Aileen Carroll (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs): Madam Speaker, we continue to raise human rights concerns and to urge Chinese leaders to respect internationally agreed upon human rights standards during meetings with Chinese ministers and officials. We will continue to register Canadian concerns about human rights abuses both in general terms and with respect to specific cases where appropriate.
Canada also continues to make reference to China in annual country situation public statements at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, the latest occurrence which took place in November 2002, and also at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and equally to support multilateral initiatives which promote our human rights objectives.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (MP for Verch res--Les-Patriotes): Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak in the debate on the motion by the honourable member for Lanark--Carleton.
First, I would like to thank and congratulate our honourable colleague from Lanark--Carleton for again drawing the House's attention to the very disturbing situation of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Based on our long discussions, especially on the expulsion of the Acadians, I know that the hon. member for Lanark--Carleton is deeply concerned with justice and respect for human rights.
Not so long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking in the House on a bill regarding China's accession to the World Trade Organization. I was very happy to speak in that debate to amend our legislation so that the People's Republic of China could join the WTO.
Members will recall that I mentioned at that time that there are a number of human rights issues in China that are currently great cause for concern. The fate of Falun Gong or Falun Dafa practitioners is one of our concerns, particularly in the context of China's accession to the WTO.
The People's Republic of China cannot, therefore, be surprised if the international community, and Canada in particular, is concerned about the human rights situation in that country, given its commitments within the international community in this area. The international community is therefore responsible for ensuring that the signatories of the treaties in question meet their commitments.
I must therefore say that the motion again presented by the honourable member for Lanark--Carleton has already had some positive impact, as he has mentioned. This motion, which was already unanimously adopted in this House in October 2002, appears to have brought about, or at least contributed to bringing about, the release of at least three of the Falun Gong practitioners listed in the resolution.
It therefore seems likely that focussing attention on the situation of our fellow citizens of Quebec or Canada, or of the Chinese relatives of those fellow citizens, can have a positive impact on what happens to them.
However, I think, and I am sure the member for Lanark--Carleton will agree with me, that through these specific cases we have decided to highlight here today, as we did in October, we really want to focus on the predicament of all Falun Gong practitioners and dissidents, whose human rights are being violated.
Falun Gong, as our colleague mentioned, is a peaceful and apolitical organization that promotes a spiritual approach based on three broad principles: truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Falun Gong tries to bring human beings closer to the fundamental nature of the universe to achieve harmony.
Ms. Wendy Lill (MP for Dartmouth): Madam Speaker, on behalf of [my party's] caucus it is my pleasure to speak in favour of Motion No. 236, which urges the Prime Minister to encourage the President of China to release thirteen Falun Gong practitioners.
As I understand it, these thirteen people are currently in prison solely because of their beliefs. It is no secret that China has an appalling human rights record and routinely tortures and imprisons people for their beliefs and for taking peaceful action such as publishing an article critical of government policy or assembling in Tiananmen Square to protest the lack of democracy in China. There are hundreds of stories of the Chinese government violating the human rights of the Falun Gong.
I thank the member for Burnaby--Douglas for providing me with the information that I am using today. For example, on March 14, 2002, four Swiss and twelve Hong King citizens were forcefully arrested while staging a peaceful appeal outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong to raise awareness of China's escalating persecution of Falun Gong. As the number of demonstrators was less than fifty, no permit was necessary for this gathering. As video evidence clearly attests, the demonstration was small, unobtrusive and completely non-violent, yet the police used violence in disrupting the event and taking away the participants.
As well, just last week there were four deaths reported. One was that of a 37 year old woman who was arrested for distributing New Year's greeting cards with the words truth, compassion and tolerance written on them. Her husband was only informed of her death 10 days later.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report that many thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured, murdered, subjected to sexual violence, including rape and forced abortions, and arbitrarily imprisoned in psychiatric facilities, labour camps and penitentiaries. As well, the government of the People's Republic of China has embarked upon a massive public campaign to breed hatred and discrimination against Falun Gong practitioners.
I cannot think of any reason that any human being should be subjected to the kind of abuse that the Chinese government has put upon the Falun Gong. The persecution of the Falun Gong violates China's own constitution as well as the international covenant on civil and political rights and the universal declaration of human rights. China is a signatory to both.
Generally it is the practice of sovereign countries not to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign country, yet through globalization our world is coming closer together and the artificial boundaries of nation states are fast crumbling. The Chinese efforts to persecute the Falun Gong go beyond the Chinese borders. In Canada, adherents have been victims of death threats, vandalism, harassment, cyber-attacks and other forms of intimidation and discrimination.
I think in this case Canada has a responsibility to encourage the Chinese government to stop these attacks and respect international law. What is the point of having international agreements if countries can sign on and then turn around and not respect them, without any repercussions?
In July 2002 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution that urged the U.S. government to condemn the efforts of the People's Republic of China to persecute the Falun Gong practitioners domestically and internationally and to strive to ensure that China released all imprisoned adherents of the faith in accordance with international human rights laws. Canadian protests also do make a difference, as Canadian Lin Shenli was recently rescued.
I fully support this motion and urge the Prime Minister to discuss the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners with the President of China as a matter of human rights. No one should have to suffer what these people have been through. Canada has a responsibility to help put an end to this.
Mr. Irwin Cotler (MP for Mount Royal): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion of the member for Lanark--Carleton and the individual cases and underlying cause that inspire it: the ongoing prosecution and persecution of the Falun Gong in China, in a word, the criminalization of innocence that finds expression in the intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention, coercive interrogation, torture, beatings and imprisonment of people for doing nothing other than espousing ancient Chinese values, which are also universal values, of truth, compassion and tolerance.
It is instructive and encouraging to note that since the member for Lanark--Carleton spoke to a similar motion on October 24, 2002, regarding the plight of thirteen Falun Gong practitioners with close family ties in Canada, which received unanimous support at the time and for which initiative he is to be singularly congratulated, five have been released, while a sixth, Yanying Wu, has been released but remains under house arrest.
As I mentioned, the news of their release is encouraging, and the improved treatment of other of these prisoners still in detention is also encouraging, and the whole is testimony to the role that the House has played and the role of our Canadian embassy and diplomats in that regard. As the member for Lanark--Carleton put it, we made it clear that we are going to be watching, that we are going to maintain a watching brief, that the prisoners are not alone in this regard and that we stand in solidarity with them.
But while this news is encouraging, as I have just described, and as the member for Lanark--Carleton went into the individual cases and humanized the appreciation and understanding of the cases and cause, the important point that must also be appreciated today and which is the import of my remarks is that while we are pleased and indeed encouraged at the release of people who are effectively prisoners of conscience, and we extend our appreciation to all involved in this effort, we have to realize that those released should never have been arrested to begin with.
We have to realize the following: that they should never have been imprisoned, held incommunicado and subjected to coercive interrogation and beatings while in detention; that they should never have been deprived of the companionship and shared life with their loved ones; that there remain eight Falun Gong practitioners with a Canadian connection still in detention, seven of them and one under house arrest, as I mentioned; that those who have been released should also not mask the fact that thousands upon thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, as has been mentioned in the House, have been detained and imprisoned for nothing other than espousing these values of truth, compassion and tolerance. We have to realize that in addition to their false imprisonment, their fundamental values of conscience and religion, of assembly and association and of expression and information, have been systematically violated, and that, indeed, over 100,000 people have been sent to labour camps without any legal process while over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in psychiatric institutions.
The Chinese authorities recently have passed new rules allowing courts to try followers for subversion, separatism and leaking state secrets if they spread any information about the Falun Gong, thereby further enlarging the dragnet of the criminalization of innocence. We are witnessing in effect a systematic and sustained assault on freedom of religion in general and the rights of Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, and Muslims in particular. For example, this has even included, by the Chinese authorities' own acknowledgement, the confiscation and destruction of houses of worship and religious books and material. This also has a Falun Gong connection, for the anti-cult legislation, developed to criminalize and eliminate the Falun Gong, has been used against 16 other religious organizations that refuse to tailor their beliefs and practices to the demands of Chinese authorities.
In a word, we would be remiss if we did not make mention of all this and sound the alarm about the dramatic increase in the persecution of the Falun Gong, including the increase in the rate of arrest and detention, the increase in deaths of Falun Gong in detention, the increase in the beatings and torture, according to eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence of Falun Gong detainees, the increase in the numbers sent to psychiatric institutions, and the use of atrocity propaganda to demonize them in the eyes of their fellow citizens.
Accordingly, I call upon the Chinese authorities: to release the seven Falun Gong practitioners with a Canadian and family connection from their imprisonment, and permit them to be reunited with their loved ones here in Canada; to repeal the illegal ban on the Falun Gong; to rescind any laws or regulations specifically criminalizing the Falun Gong as an "illegal association" and prohibiting thereby the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of their members as guaranteed under Chinese law; to cease and desist from any policy or practice of torture or other degrading punishment or treatment of prisoners in detention, something that Chinese authorities undertook as well with the ratification of the international covenant on civil and political rights, with respect to which we have made representations; and to release all Falun Gong members now detained in prison, forced labour camps or psychiatric detention.
Category: Voices of Support Worldwide