July 9, 2005

Two Falun Gong practitioners have launched legal proceedings against the Federal Government, claiming moves to stifle their protests outside the Chinese embassy were unlawful.

Dai Zhi Zhen, a widow, and Zhang Cui Ying, a traditional artist, both of Sydney, have instituted proceedings in the ACT Supreme Court against the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Alexander Downer, and the Australian Federal Police.

Mrs. Zhang is also suing Chinese officials in the NSW Supreme Court for allegedly imprisoning and torturing her.

It has been reported that Falun Gong members have instituted 46 similar lawsuits in 26 countries.

Another Australian member, David Liang, was reportedly shot in the feet last year while attempting to file legal papers in South Africa against visiting Chinese officials.


The two women claim that a formal declaration made by Mr. Downer in May that the activities of protesters impaired the dignity of the embassy, and that it was appropriate to invoke diplomatic privileges and immunities laws to prevent this, was invalid. The activities in question were the displaying of banners and signs and the use of loudspeakers.

Similar action was taken against Falun Gong in 2002, although a silent protest, including the use of banners, continues outside the embassy in Yarralumla on an almost daily basis.

The applicants claimed that Mr. Downer's actions impaired their right to freedom of expression in Australia and were accordingly invalid. They said they had suffered personal injury and material loss because of the actions of the Chinese Communist Party and had a right to peacefully protest in a dignified manner with banners and loudspeakers in a way that did not intrude upon the Chinese mission.

The applicants are seeking court declarations that the Government's actions were invalid, an injunction preventing any repetition, the return of the seized items and unspecified damages.