Canada: 6th Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom Focuses on China
(Minghui.org) The 6th Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 3, 2017, focusing on religious freedom in China. The forum was hosted by David Anderson, MP, and Garnett Genuis, MP, with a keynote address by Anastasia Lin (Miss World Canada 2015), academic perspectives from Dr. Andrew Bennett and Mr. David Mulroney, and attended by around 120 MPs, China experts, reporters, and the general public.
Former Ambassador for Religious Freedom: No Illusion on China
Dr. Andrew Bennett, former Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Senior Research Fellow with the Religious Freedom Research Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, said during his speech that China remains one of the world’s most egregious violators of freedom of religion and belief. He pointed out that, according to the Pew Forum, one of the most respected research institutes in the area of religious freedom, China consistently is placed at or near the top of the list of countries that have the worst record in terms of government restrictions on religious communities. In the most recent report by the Pew Forum in 2015, China topped the list of countries with the most significant and serious restrictions on religious communities.
Dr. Bennett said, “We should not be under any illusion that as China engages more and more with the political, economic, social frameworks of the world, that that is having any impact on their human rights record. The more they engage in international forums, one would hope that there would be pressure put on China to improve their record on human rights, to improve their record on religious freedom, but they remained unmoved.”
Mr. Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador and President & Vice-Chancellor of University of St. Michael’s College, said during his speech, “Something as simple as showing up with a message of Canadian concern and support can become, as my colleague, the German ambassador, eloquently put it, like a candle in the dark for people who are otherwise alone and abandoned.”
MP: Use Our Influence
The audience commented that the forum had opened their eyes on religious persecution in China.
MP Judy Sgro told the reporter after the forum, “Canada does have to be extremely careful that Canada is not naive in its relationship. And there needs to be conditions as we move forward on rights. Ensuring religious freedom is one. It also has to be the issue of safety, when you talk about the Falun Gong as an example. Organ harvesting, these incredibly terrible things that we continue to hear about... I think it’s important that those of us who live in Canada exercise our parliamentary responsibility. It’s the responsibility of all Canadians to stand up and push back.”
MP David Anderson said in an interview, “One of the things that struck me the most is one of our witnesses said that Canada can be a candle in the dark, so by participating and by bringing up these issues, it actually pours light on the subject and encourages the Chinese government to do better than they have in the past. We do have a significant influence and we can use that influence, and hopefully make some great change for some of the people in China who are just being persecuted simply because they have a faith.”
MP Harold Albrecht said in an interview, “We need to keep speaking out against these kinds of injustices. When we enter into trade relationships or political relationships, it’s important that we are not afraid to identify the lack of freedom that our Chinese brothers and sisters are experiencing, and to draw attention of the international community to these injustices. It’s incumbent upon us as Canadians. I think many of my constituents, probably 90% or more, would urge us as a country to be more vocal in expressing our concern that Chinese people do need the basic freedoms that we take for granted in Canada.”
Spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Canada Discusses Persecution
Mr. Joel Chipkar, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, said the “President of China at the time, Jiang Zemin, ordered to eliminate Falun Gong after he found out that 100 million people were practicing a spiritual discipline that was not controlled by the state, and also created an extralegal police force, called the 610 Office, with absolute power, that hunts down, arrests, and can even kill practitioners without trial... He shouted, 'Don’t you think that our Marxism, materialism, and atheism can’t beat that spiritual stuff aired by Falun Gong?' He then mobilized the entire society to persecute Falun Gong. He unleashed a multi-billion-dollar relentless propaganda campaign that blanketed the country.”
Mr. Chipkar used his friend Mr. He Lizhi's personal experience as a example to illustrate how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had carried out persecution of innocents in the past 17 years.
Mr. Chipkar pointed out that the CCP had also extended its campaign overseas: “The Communist party is sending fake, irrational emails disguised as Falun Gong practitioners’ to our elected officials to manipulate them to think that Falun Gong practitioners are bizarre and unstable, and that the Communist Party may be justified in its persecution. They are targeting the moral conscience of MPs who may turn their backs on victims of terrible crimes due to these emails. It's a diabolical plan that is attacking our government officials here on Canadian soil to further silence the voice of the victims.”
Miss World Canada 2015: Persecutors 'can never take away the human spirit'
Ms. Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada 2015, who starred in the movie The Bleeding Edge, gave a speech at the forum. To best portray a Falun Gong practitioner being persecuted, Anastasia visited several practitioners who had been tortured in China. Among them were two sisters who had been imprisoned for 13 years, where they were shocked with electric batons and force-fed after they launched a fifty-day hunger strike. Jailers also forced them to watch each other being brutally force-fed. However, such torture couldn't make them give up their faith.
Anastasia said, “They might succeed for a while, arresting human rights lawyers and believers, banning books and zones and blocking websites, but they can never censor the human spirit, they can never take away the power that imagination, the spirit of creativity, the hope, and faith in us. They can never take away the human spirit.”
The Bleeding Edge, a winner of the 51st Gabriel Awards, has been screen around the world.