(Minghui.org) Falun Dafa practitioners invited Queensland candidates running for public office in Australia’s general election to an evening forum on May 6, 2019 at the Southport Community Center on the Gold Coast.

Among those who attended the forum, a wide range of candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives were affiliated with various political parties, while some were standing as independents. They were each given the opportunity to view highlights from Falun Dafa’s twenty-year history in the city through a selection of images from the “Peaceful Journey of Falun Dafa” photo exhibition hanging on the walls of the venue. Each candidate also received a folder of introductory materials put together by local practitioners.

The proceedings were conducted very much like a typical candidate forum, with time allocated for each speaker to introduce themselves, tell why they are running for office, and explain their policies.

Each speaker was then presented with a prepared question addressed to all candidates:

“Since the Chinese regime began persecuting Falun Dafa almost 20 years ago, we have faced foreign influence from Beijing. When we organize or even join a public event, we often hear feedback [that] the regime’s diplomatic or Confucius Institute staff have warned elected representatives, venues, and even festival organizers not to support Falun Dafa, otherwise it could damage relations with China. If you are elected on May 18, how will you resist foreign influence and help stand up for community groups like ours?”

19-Year-Long Persecution Unanimously Opposed

The candidates unanimously opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19-year-long persecution, including the arbitrary detention, torture, and killing of Falun Dafa practitioners for organs.

Scott Turner, Australian Greens candidate for Fadden, said he saw Falun Dafa practitioners counter the Chinese regime’s propaganda many times in Brisbane’s Chinatown district by showing tourists from mainland China the goodness of Falun Dafa and the evilness of the CCP’s persecution.

Australian Greens candidate Scott Turner

“Falun Dafa people were always there with banners and signs, and I thought that is a great way to circumvent the restrictions in China against the protests, you can actually reach your own Chinese people to let them know [the truth about the persecution],” Turner said.

Mr. Turner was also impressed by the practitioners’ peaceful demeanor.

“Their protests were always so dignified and respectful, and they never leave any rubbish behind afterwards,” he said. “I thought there might have been the old Chinese proverb that it is the beautiful bird which gets caged, and an army can defeat the general, but they can never take away your spirit and ambition.”

Supporter of Falun Dafa Writes to UN

Michael Kaff, an independent candidate for McPherson, who has been a major supporter of Falun Dafa practitioners, said he had written to a number of influential people over the past three years to raise awareness of the ongoing persecution in China.

Independent candidate Michael Kaff

Kaff said, “I have written to people who I know are associated with the United Nations in relation to China’s treatment of Falun Gong/Falun Dafa practitioners. I have been pretty active in putting that message out there. I wrote to somebody who was working with the United Nations to do with human rights abuses in North Korea and, when I talked to him about Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, he was [saying] ‘Oh, I haven’t heard much about that.’”

Persecution an Example of CCP Putting Power Before Freedom

Liberal Democrats candidate for Fadden Jake Welch described the Chinese regime’s persecution as a typical example of a government repressing its citizens to appear powerful.

Liberal Democrats candidate Jake Welch

“It is really an example of how people put power ahead their own policies and principles of personal human rights and freedom,” Welch said. “[There should be] policies that put people first—our own human rights, social freedom, and freedom of speech and freedom of religion—before any ideas with the power of the nation.”

Candidate Recounts Terrifying Detention in China

Fellow Liberal Democrats Senate candidate Gabe Buckley revealed he had personally experienced detention in China many years ago because he was carrying a Hardy Boys adventure series novel at Guangzhou Railway Station.

Liberal Democrats candidate Gabe Buckley

“This particular title was Pentagon Spy, which is probably not the wisest title to be dragging around China, so some security guards at the railway station noticed I was carrying around a book that had the words ‘Pentagon Spy’ written on it, and I ended up bailed up by armed guards, separated from my family, and interrogated,” Buckley said. “I was a ten-year-old boy, I was terrified ... that affected me and made me really wary of governments or anyone who says I have power over [others].”

He does not believe that anyone, including the Chinese regime, has the right to bully others.

“I don’t think any person has a right to hold [that kind of] power over another,” Buckley said. “If you want to go work for somebody, your boss has power over you while you are working for them. That is voluntary. You decide to go and take instructions.”

Prosecutor and Qigong Practitioner Hopes to Bring Change

Pirate Party Lead Senate Candidate Brandon Selic said he has worked for nearly twelve years at the Southport Courthouse as a criminal defense lawyer and prosecutor, and has kept up to date with developments in the persecution of Falun Dafa.

Pirate Party Senate candidate Brandon Selic

“I am well aware of the human rights issues that some of you may be more concerned about back home, particularly about Falun Dafa,” Selic said. “I have [also] been a practitioner of [another form of] qigong for quite some time, which I found quite beneficial for my health.”

Candidate Devotes Life to Upholding Human Rights

Independent Senate candidate Hassan Ghulam revealed he had also faced a form of spiritual persecution in his homeland of Afghanistan, and he now devotes his time to advocating for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Independent Senate candidate Hassan Ghulam

“Every principle and every faith has the right to exist and has also the right to interact,” Ghulam said. “[The Chinese regime] should find a better solution, a peaceful solution with the Uighurs and everyone else, with the Buddhists, the Dalai Lama, and Falun Dafa. I am not supporting that harsh treatment [by the CCP].”

Candidates Oppose CCP’s Influence in Australia

The candidates also opposed the Chinese regime’s attempts to influence Australian politics and the broader community by pressuring them to refrain from supporting Falun Dafa activities.

Scott Turner said he believes that the Australian Government should limit foreign influence as much as possible.

“The activities of the Confucius Institute are trying to spread the propaganda and spread the control and tell people, ‘Don’t be involved in Falun Dafa or we will cut you off.’ That is unacceptable,” he said.

“I think we need to really keep a lid on that kind of foreign influence. We need to resist that in any way we can … [to] maintain freedom of expression of critical views but to make sure there is no undue influence. No country should unilaterally influence another country or the citizens of that country.”

Independent candidate for the Senate Hetty Johnston voiced her complete opposition to Australian democracy being “for sale or [subject to] foreign manipulation.”

“I totally object to any foreign power’s (including China) or international movement or business influence in Australian politics, or to any of our political parties accepting donations from them, or making covert deals to inject funding into Australian politics in order to have influence in Australian policy,” she said in an email to practitioners, encouraging them to keep up their efforts to end the persecution in China. “This is a large part of the reason I am running in this election.”

Australian Conservatives Senate candidate Lyle Shelton (C) with Falun Dafa practitioners

Australian Conservatives Senate candidate Lyle Shelton expressed concern about the persecution, organ harvesting from Falun Dafa practitioners, and China’s influence in Australia. Fellow Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi said he had seen practitioners hold a vigil outside Parliament House in Canberra, and he introduced legislation in the Senate in 2018 to counter foreign influence from the Confucius Institute.

Michael Kaff said he believes that no foreign influence should be tolerated in Australian politics and that all confirmed cases of foreign agents corrupting elected representatives should be listed on a public register.

“It should be open to the public so we can all make submissions to this commission against corruption and make sure that people aren’t being influenced by China. We need to look after the Australian people and those minorities or those individuals and associations that are for peace like you guys are. We have to make sure you are looked after,” he said.

“We Should Not Be Doing the CCP Any Favors”

Mr. Kaff also said he would not hesitate to raise the issue of the persecution of Falun Dafa in the federal parliament if elected, and push for Australia to diversify its trade away from China and back to former major trading partners like Japan and other Asian countries.

“I am happy to stand up in Parliament and say it as it is on your behalf and make sure that the Federal Government and the world and the press know what is going on,” Kaff said. “They have passed resolution after resolution in the Senate, but have they really done anything about it? Not really. Has it affected our trade with China? Not really. Perhaps we should be looking at getting our trade elsewhere … they are not doing you guys any favors, so we really should not be doing them any favors.”

Threat of Damaging China Relations Is a “Terrible Idea”

Jake Welch described the Chinese regime’s threat that engaging with Falun Dafa practitioners would damage Australia’s relationship with China, as a “terrible idea.”

“Restricting people in Australia who are practicing their own freedom, based on the relationships we have with someone overseas is a terrible idea to me. The government and a lot of politicians these days, they really focus power over policy over their own principles, and that is something I really believe the Liberal Democrats can really counter,” he said. “We will never violate human rights and the economic social principles that we have put in place.”

Candidate Will “Hit Back” at CCP’s Bullying

Gabe Buckley described Beijing’s treatment of Falun Dafa practitioners as a classic example of bullying behavior he would fully oppose, even if the Chinese regime threatened to cancel trade deals with Australia.

“I will put myself between you and the Chinese Government. I don’t care, I’ll hit back,” he said. “I won’t even listen to the Australian Government when it tells me what to do, let alone the Chinese Government, so they have got no hope … if we are not hurting anyone, who has the right to tell us to stop? Who has the right to tell you to stop? No one.”

Brandon Selic echoed this view and believes any trade threat from Beijing would only make him support Falun Dafa more vocally.

Foreign Influence Is Real, Says Candidate

Great Australian Party Senate candidate Arjay Martin said that as a current law student at Bond University, he is convinced that foreign governments do “interfere with people’s rights.”

Great Australian Party Senate candidate Arjay Martin

“There were politicians who were going to meet with Falun Gong practitioners and leaders until they were told, ‘You cannot meet with these people, otherwise you will be dis-endorsed for the next election.’ That is completely ridiculous,” he said. “Even when it is a small country relatively, we need to stand up for our own people, rights, privileges, right to speak [and] right to have expression.”

“The CCP’s Days Are Numbered”

Hassan Ghulam said he believes that the current Chinese regime’s days are numbered and that change has to happen.

“A mix of old socialism and modern capitalism, a so-called blend in the Chinese culture – is this correct, is this right, is this going to exist for decades to come, or is it going to change?” he said. “I think it is going to change.”