Falun Gong Practitioners in Vancouver Win Lawsuit for Their Protest Site (Photos)
(Clearwisdom.net) On October 19, 2010, the British Columbia Court of Appeal struck down the city bylaw that prohibited Falun Gong practitioners from placing their protest billboards and hut in front of the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver, and ruled it to be unconstitutional and against the practitioners' right of free speech granted by the Canadian Constitution.
British Columbia Court of Appeal judge Carol Huddart announced that all the three judges had reached an agreement that it was a mistake for the lower level Supreme Court to require Falun Gong practitioners to remove their protest signs in front of the Chinese Consulate. The Falun Gong practitioners' protest with billboards and a small hut is protected by the Canadian Constitution, which grants them the right of free speech. It is unconstitutional for the city bylaw to prohibit them from expressing their opinions with structures.
Falun Dafa practitioners in Vancouver protest peacefully in front of the Chinese Consulate around the clock, rain or shine
Since 2001, Falun Gong practitioners in Vancouver have protested the communist regime's brutal persecution around the clock in front of the Chinese Consulate. In 2006, pressured by the Chinese regime's authorities, then mayor Sam Sullivan proposed to the B.C. Supreme Court to pass an injunction requiring the removal of the protest billboards and the blue shelter outside the consulate, based on the city transportation bylaws. Vancouver practitioners appealed the decision. In January 2009, the B.C. Supreme Court made the judgment to order the practitioners to dismantle their structures, so they appealed again to the B.C. Court of Appeal. On October 19, 2010, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the city bylaw prohibiting protest structures is unconstitutional.
Lawyer Joe Arvay, who appealed for Falun Gong, said that: "The court has ruled that it's unconstitutional for the city of Vancouver to prohibit Falun Gong's protest site." In the ruling statement, the city is allowed to have six months to modify its regulatory bylaws. "Meanwhile, the practitioners can now apply to the city and ask for a location to place their protest boards and restore their small blue hut at the front of the consulate. The city's decision has to be consistent with the Constitution."
Arvay said, "Falun Gong practitioners deliver their message to the public regarding the brutal persecution and torture going on in China through large display panels with pictures and phrases and one person sitting in meditation inside the small hut. There is no other way that is more appropriate than this."
He added, "In cases involving the Constitution, every victory is significant. This case isn't only between the city of Vancouver and Falun Gong. The practitioners' victory in this lawsuit is also winning freedom of expression for all the people of British Columbia."
The History of the Protest Site
The practitioners in Vancouver started the peaceful protest around the clock in front of the Chinese Consulate on August 20, 2001.
At that time, two incidents of severe persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China were published: One was when several practitioners were tortured to death in Wanjia Forced Labor Camp in Heilongjiang Province in a severe round of persecution; the other incident involved about 100 practitioners who were conducting a hunger strike to protest the brutal persecution with their lives being threatened. Upon hearing the news, Vancouver practitioners began a 300-hour relay hunger strike appeal. Afterward, they decided to continue their peaceful appeal in front of the Chinese Consulate non-stop.
The protest was granted verbal permission by the city until 2006. In 2003, as required by the city, the practitioners had a discussion on reducing the size of the display panels. In November 2003, in response to a citizen's email, the government clearly stated that, "Falun Gong practitioners' protest is legitimate, we won't take any actions."
On August 11, 2006, former mayor Sam Sullivan applied to the B.C. Supreme Court, based on the city's traffic regulations, to demand that the court issue an injunction ordering the practitioners to remove their protest boards and the small blue hut on Granville Street, which had been there for more than five years.
The practitioners appealed the court's decision. In January 2009, the B.C. Supreme Court granted the city of Vancouver an injunction to remove the structures outside the consulate and the practitioners did so. But then they appealed again and continued to protest in front of the consulate with informational banners. On October 19, 2010, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that Falun Gong practitioners had won the legal battle.
Close Relationship Between Sullivan and the Communist Regime
Former Vancouver city councilor Tim Louis said: "It's not a secret that the communist regime had been pressuring the city of Vancouver and told them to stop Falun Gong practitioners' protest in front of the consulate."
On June 9, 2006, the Vancouver Courier reported that the previous mayor of Vancouver, Li Jian Bao, met with two Consular Generals to discuss the protest structures in front of the consulate. However, he believes that Canada is a country that values freedom of speech and belief, so he refused to take any action against the protest.
Sullivan was elected the mayor of Vancouver in November 2005. When asked by the lawyer, he denied having any contact with the Chinese Consulate before he made the decision to dismantle the protest billboards and blue hut. Later when he was asked again, he said after he sent the application to the court, he was invited to a private dinner by Yang Qiang held at the ex-Consular General's residence where Sullivan provided the latest information regarding the protest site. He told Yang that he had submitted an application to the B.C. Supreme Court and the results would come out soon.
Before Yang left his post, he held a press conference. When asked by a reporter whether he had any regrets during his office, Yang publicly admitted that he had urged the city of Vancouver to remove the protest site outside the consulate many times but didn't succeed.
The Chinese communist regime put a lot of effort into stroking Sullivan. The regime's newspapers have published several articles speaking highly of him. The Vancouver Sun published an interview with Sullivan in which he said, "During my visit in China, they welcomed me with a red carpet and treated me like an emperor. It's a pity that Vancouver doesn't have such a large budget so that I could pay them back."
Falun Gong Practitioners Attacked by Gunman at the Protest Site
After the practitioners were asked to remove the protest billboards, one practitioner was attacked in front of the Chinese Consulate. On the morning of August 2, 2007, practitioner Mr. Zhang Chunyu was assaulted by three Asian men who appeared to be around 20 years old. They tore up the protest display boards. One of them confronted Mr. Zhang, held a handgun against his temple and ordered him to leave. He shouted: "Don't stay here! Go away!" The three thugs beat Mr. Zhang, punching him in the eyes and head, and kicked the blue shelter, making several large holes. Not until a bus passed by did they stop and leave.
Government Officials Didn't Agree with the Removal
David Cadman, a Vancouver city councilor, expressed his opinion in June 2006, "It's completely wrong to terminate a peaceful protest with city regulatory laws." Sullivan was challenging freedom of speech and belief using the city's laws in the court.
Mr. Cadman also said that he and other city councilors never received any complaints about the protest site. The pedestrians who walked on the sidewalks by the Chinese Consulate have never said that they were inconvenienced by those display boards; instead many have voiced their sympathy and support for practitioners. He said, "Sullivan was doing something to damage Vancouver."
Tim Louis said, "It is very sad that Mayor Sullivan doesn't seem to support freedom of speech and religious belief." Mr. Louis believed that the Mayor's Office should focus on protecting helpless people, not persecute people who have already been through so many hardships.
He said, "We have such a group of innocent, nonviolent religious believers who are suffering severe persecution. All they have asked is for people who have abilities and opportunities to pay attention to the persecution."
Simma Holt, a former member of the Canadian House of Commons, specifically went to visit the practitioners outside the consulate many times. She said, "This is the worst news I have ever heard. The worst thing a mayor could do is to impede the Falun Gong group's ability to protest and speak. In China, they are tortured and killed, their organs are removed and sold."
Mrs. Holt further stated, "Falun Gong practitioners are fighting for all of us. If they lose the battle, then no one is safe. That's why I say this: If no one dares to stand up to speak while persecution and genocide is happening, then we'll have a replay of the Holocaust that happened during World War II."
Vancouver Residents Support Falun Gong
After some Vancouver residents heard about the injunction, they came to the protest site to express their support for Falun Gong. Roma Dehr said, "Sullivan's succumbing to 'political pressure' to ask for removing the display boards, which will impair our rights and freedom in Canada."
British Columbia residents James, his wife and their two children came all the way from Langley (about one hour away from Vancouver) to the consulate to show their support for Falun Gong. They said, "Regarding this issue, the city regulations don't matter, people should know what's happening in China."
Granville Street, where the consulate is located, is a busy main street in Vancouver where traffic comes and goes all the time. In addition to the passing-by cars that honk and drivers giving a thumbs-up to show their support, many people have brought flowers to the practitioners, some wanted to donate money, and some stayed there for a while, joining the practitioners to show their support.
One day around 10:00 p.m., a Chinese man got out of a car holding a pot of light yellow flowers. He said to the practitioners, "I just got off work. I've brought a pot of flowers, and I want to place the flowers in front of the photos of the practitioners who have been persecuted to death to show my respect for them." Afterward, several times whenever he passed by on his way to work or after work, he stayed and sat with the practitioners. He said he was deeply touched by the practitioners' courage and great compassion, he hopes the persecution will end very soon. "We're all Chinese people, I'm always with you!"
In 2002, the Chinese Consulate spent a lot of money to remodel the building. An Italian worker talked to the practitioners during his break. He said, "I have seen compassion in your eyes." Before he left, he wished the practitioners good luck.
When the practitioners took a bus to the protest site, the driver stopped in front of the consulate even though it isn't a scheduled stop. Once when a practitioner took a bus back home at midnight, the driver on the night shift drove her directly to her home.
Once when an elderly practitioner clarified the truth about the persecution at the airport, a passenger who had just got off the plane said, "You don't have to tell me about it, I have seen you in the past. I work at the consulate. Actually, I respect your belief. But that's my job, I can't talk too much about it."
Nine Years of Protest Has Helped Many People Understand the Truth
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Vancouver practitioners take turns protesting the brutal persecution by sitting quietly and peacefully in front of the Chinese Consulate. No matter if it's in freezing winter or the heat of summer, raining or snowing, the practitioners have never stopped their peaceful protest. One female practitioner spent five Christmas Eves in front of the consulate.
Many practitioners have such experiences: When they clarify the truth of Falun Gong to a stranger, that person would say, "Oh, I know Falun Gong." When asked where they heard about Falun Gong, many people said they have seen Falun Gong's display boards on Granville Street.
When the bus with the Chinese tourists passes by, the tour guide would automatically point out to them: This is the Falun Gong protest site, that is the Chinese Consulate.
As Long as the Persecution Is Still Taking Place the Protest Will Not Stop
Before the final result came out, the practitioners in Vancouver had a discussion. They held the same opinion: we hope to have a fair court decision. We don't want the judges to make any mistakes, but we are also not attached to the results. No matter what they decide, as long as the persecution hasn't ended, we won't stop protesting.