Vancouver: City Government Proposes the Redraft of Public Expression Bylaw (Photos)
(Clearwisdom.net) On April 14, the City of Vancouver proposed a new draft of the “Public Expression” bylaw, which would allow Falun Gong protesters to build structures outside the Chinese consulate. Falun Gong practitioners have been fighting for their right to protest and have gained support from all walks of life in Vancouver.
Protesting in front of the Chinese consulate on April 9
The press conference on April 13
The press conference on April 13
Jing Tian, a Falun Gong practitioner, spoke at the press conference on April 13
The history of the protest site and the lawsuit
The practitioners in Vancouver started their peaceful protest around the clock in front of the Chinese consulate on August 20, 2001.
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. 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 in violation of the practitioners' right of free speech granted by the Canadian Constitution. The Court of Appeal asked the City of Vancouver to revise the bylaw in six months. The deadline is April 19, 2011.
The first revision was questioned
On April 7, the city government proposed a new bylaw that prevented structures in front of the Chinese consulate. According to local media reports, the city government consulted with the Chinese consulate before the new bylaw was proposed.
Councillor David Cadman was astonished. “Is there any other bylaw that you can think of that we brought in that we would have consulted with a foreign government—a government that imprisons a Nobel laureate, that imprisons an artist that exhibits at the Tate? Why would we consult with them about our bylaw?” he asked.
Clive Ansley, a lawyer representing Falun Gong, said the fact that city engineers consulted the Chinese consulate is “disgraceful” and “indefensible.” He also said that after reviewing the proposed bylaw restrictions it was clear that the consulate “pretty much got their entire wish-list.”
“We didn’t fight this battle over five years, and the Court of Appeal didn’t make this decision striking down the bylaw, in order for the city to enact a new bylaw that results in the identical prohibition of free expression,” he said at the council meeting. “Passage of the present form of this by-law will guarantee another lawsuit on behalf of my client,” he added.
Falun Gong practitioners held a press conference on April 13
On April 13, Falun Gong practitioners held a press conference in front of City Hall. Several practitioners spoke. They said that the protests in front of the Chinese consulate have encouraged them. Practitioners also re-enacted the torture methods that the Chinese government uses on practitioners in China. Liu Qikun, the representative from Allies of the Guard of Canadian Values; Tenzin Lhalungpa, the chair of the Canadian Tibetan Association; Simma Holt, a former Canadian Member of Parliament; and Sadie Kuehn, the chair of Friends of Falun Gong, came to the press conference. A dozen local media covered the story.
Ms. Sue Zhang, spokeswoman for Falun Gong, pointed out that the Court of Appeal has already 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, ruling it to be unconstitutional and in violation of practitioners' right of free speech granted by the Canadian Constitution.
Ms. Zhang briefly reviewed the facts and history of the brutal persecution of Falun Gong in China. She mentioned that 35 Vancouver citizens had been persecuted in China for practicing Falun Gong. Some citizens' family members are being jailed in China. She said the city government should not suppress the protesters' rights.
Two Falun Gong practitioners, Jing Tian and Tang Feng, spoke at the conference. Jing Tian was sentenced to 13 years and was badly tortured in jail. She was released early because she became very weak and was dying. Tang Feng was arrested more than 10 times and tortured in detention centers. Twenty of Tang Feng's friends were tortured to death because they practiced Falun Gong. In their speeches, they said that the protests in front of the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver have given them encouragement and hope.
Liu Qikun, the representative from Allies of the Guard of Canadian Values, said that it is intolerable that the city government would consult with a foreign consulate when revising the bylaws, especially when it is a tyrannical power that has killed millions of its own people. He asked, “In America, people can protest against the president in front of the White House. Why can't we protest against the tyrant power in front of its consulate in Vancouver?”
Sadie Kuehn, the chair of Friends of Falun Gong, expressed her support. She said Falun Gong practitioners save lives, and other organizations have learned a lot from them. She expressed her appreciation to Falun Gong practitioners for devoting their lives to changing the world in the peaceful way.
Simma Holt, a former Canadian MP, also expressed her support at the conference. She praised Falun Gong practitioners. She said that if there had been such an organization in 1930s appealing for human rights, then the Nazi's genocide would not have happened. She called upon the city government not to over-emphasize the importance of economy. She said that Hitler's Germany was wealthy, too, but brought disaster to the world.
Raymond Yee, the representative of the Canadian Tibetan Association, said, “If we don't stand out in front of the Chinese consulate, we are helping the evil, we are acknowledging the persecution of Falun Gong.”
City government revised the draft
The new draft allows the structures in front of the Chinese consulate and also removes the $200 registration fee and $1,000 deposit, but increases the fine for breaking the law.
There are still some limits in the new version, such as that the size of the allowable structure is reduced by half.
The new version will be debated by the city council on April 19.