(Minghui.org) “If members of Parliament want to attend Falun Gong related events then they should be able to,” said the Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand, after an email was mistakenly sent by New Zealand’s foreign minister to members of Parliament on May 5.
In the leaked email, which was intended only for National Party MP's, foreign minister Murray McCully told MPs not to attend a World Falun Dafa Day (May 13) celebration.
"The Chinese Embassy is likely to monitor attendance at events, and can be expected to protest officially should ministers, Members of Parliament or other officials be present," the email said.
"The media may also take an interest in Ministers' attendance. Given the sensitivities of this event, MFAT's advice is Ministers and MPs should not attend World Falun Dafa Day events."
The Falun Dafa Association in New Zealand said in its statement on Wednesday: “The Chinese Communist Party has no right to tell elected members of Parliament what they can attend. This is a free and democratic society, where elected Members of Parliament should be able to freely exercise their own decision making capacity.”
The email leak was reported in most major online media outlets, on national radio, and in the country’s major broadsheet newspaper.
Politicians from the Opposition criticized the government for catering to the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Labour Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesman David Shearer said to the press: “It is outrageous to warn MPs off from attending events. It should not be dictated to by Murray McCully and his ministry because they feel it might upset another country.”
“New Zealand has a proud history of free speech, freedom of religion, and an independent foreign policy. It should be Kiwis and Kiwis only who should decide where they go and who they associate with,” said Shearer.
Greens MP Kennedy Graham stands with Shearer. “I have a fundamental problem with the executive branch of Government … presuming to advise members of the national legislature what to do,” Mr. Graham said on Newstalk ZB.
Kerry Dore, a lawyer for the New Zealand Falun Dafa Association, said to Radio New Zealand: "I think that the Chinese communist party should be mature enough to accept that in this country, unlike theirs, we actually do have things like rights to freedom of expression."
"If a National Party MP wants to attend World Falun Dafa Day, in order to celebrate the practice, they ought to be able to do so," he said.
Amnesty International’s Executive Director Grant Bayldon said in a press release that the Amnesty members around the world “are working hard to stop the imprisonment and torture of Falun Gong practitioners … rather than self-censoring its MPs in an attempt to please China, the New Zealand government should join the international call on China to respect freedom of religion.”
The NZ Falun Dafa Association warned in the statement that the country would be “in danger of becoming nothing more than a subservient colonial outpost of the Chinese Communist Party,” if the MPs follow the email's instruction.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, includes the practice of slow-moving exercises and meditation, and teachings with the core principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. The group has been persecuted by the Chinese regime since 1999.