Former Canadian Minister of Justice: Canada Should Take Action Against Two-Decade Long Persecution of Falun Gong
(Minghui.org) In an interview with New Tang Dynasty TV on December 11, 2020, the day after International Human Rights Day, Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and longtime Member of Parliament, condemned the 21-year long persecution against Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party and called on the Canadian government to take action against it.
Cotler said the eradication campaign against Falun Gong violates the practitioners’ “fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression, religion, belief, association and assembly, where a spiritual exercise meditation group is dehumanized and demonized.”
Cotler said that Falun Gong is based on traditional Chinese values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance, but this spiritual group was targeted for exclusion and extinction. “The members of the group have been the ongoing targets of illegal arrest and arbitrary detention, of torture in detention, of false and trumped up charges, of the denial of any presumption of innocence, of the denial of any right to rebut any of the charges, of the denial of any semblance of due process, in the denial of the right to counsel, the right to a fair trial, or the right to a hearing of independent judiciary, where 99.9 % have their charges secured as convictions.”
“No Contradiction Between Trade and Human Rights Issues”
Mr. Cotler recalled that not long after he was elected a Member of the Parliament in November 1999, Falun Gong practitioners found him and told him about the arrest of professor Zhang Kunlun, who was his colleague at McGill University and was arrested when he went back to China to visit his family. He was subjected to arbitrary detention and torture, as well as all the inequities described above – the deprivation of due process and human dignity.
Together with his two MP colleagues, Ms. Judy Sgro and Mr. David Kilgour, Mr. Cotler organized a series of press conferences and initiatives to speak out for professor Zhang. But he was advised by governmental officials that they should not hold these press conferences because the government was about to embark on a trade mission to China.
Mr. Cotler responded that there is “no contradiction between the promotion of trade and promotion of human rights. The contradiction is between the promotion of trade and the compromising or exclusion of issues of human rights.” He, Ms. Sgro, and Mr. Kilgour continued with their advocacy and successfully rescued professor Zhang. The trade mission also went ahead.
He said, “The Canada-China relations cannot be anchored in or proceed upon, [if there is] any compromising of any human rights and human dignity issues.”
Difference Between China and Chinese People
Speaking of the Canada-China relationship, Mr. Cotler said that we must distinguish the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the people of China, who are the standing targets of mass domestic repression.
“While we support engagement with China and support trade with China, this cannot be done at the expense of the protection of human rights, at the expense of the protection of human dignity. China today constitutes the greatest threat to the rules based international order,” such as the enhanced targeting of minority groups under the cover of the pandemic, including Uyghurs, Hongkongers, Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetans. The CCP also illegally harvests organs from, particularly Falun Gong practitioners, as well as Uyghurs, Tibetans and Christians. Such crime has been characterized by Sir Geoffrey Nice in the China tribunal as an ongoing crimes against humanity.
Mr. Cotler also criticized the CCP’s assault on media freedom and human rights lawyers. He said that the CCP jails more journalists than any other country in the world. He also gave the example of Falun Gong practitioner and Chinese Canadian Ms. Sun Qian, whose defense he was involved in. After having conversation with her lawyers in China, he found that a succession of seven lawyers who sought to represent her, but ended up being arrested or disappeared themselves. Some were charged, being held incommunicado, or being forced to give up the representation of her case.
Impose Sanctions on the Chinese Officials
Mr. Cotler applauded the European Union’s adoption of the global Magnitsky Act before the Human Rights Day, which he said was a transformative change. It quadrupled the number of countries that can now invoke and apply such sanctions, that makes the leverage much more powerful.
He said that Canada has also adopted similar legislation and he is hoping the current administration can impose the sanctions on those Chinese officials responsible for gross violations of human rights, including mass deprivation of liberty and arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in detention, and the illegal harvesting of organs.
“We have submitted to the Canadian governmental authorities, with detailed and documentary evidence of 14 senior Chinese officials in respect of whom magnificent sanctions can and should be imposed. So I would hope that our government will begin to move with regard to a Magnitsky sanctions and I’m encouraged by the internationalization of these sanctions and by the EU adoption of them.”
He also mentioned that a piece of legislation against the organ tourism has been taken up in the parliament, in order to prevent Canadians from traveling to China to receive illegal organs.
Actions to Counter Human Rights Violations
In terms of what can be done to stop the persecution of Falun Gong, Mr. Cotler said, “It’s our responsibility to expose and unmask the culture of criminality and corruption, and the impunity which underpins it, which can be seen through the looking glasses I've mentioned of the persecution and prosecution of the Falun Gong. It regrettably has fallen off the international radar screen, but has to returned to the public, human rights agenda and becomes a priority with respect to our concerns and our advocacy.”
With communist China bullying Australia, Japan and Canada, Mr. Cotler said an inter-parliamentary alliance has been formed six months ago to reverse the asymmetrical power relationship where China uses its economic power to bully countries one by one. Now over one hundred legislators from over 25 democratic countries have joined the alliance for intergovernmental cooperation.
It has also been reported that more and more Canadian residents, including Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters, are being intimidated and threatened by the CCP here in Canada. Mr. Cotler said that they are taking recommendations by the China Coalition on Human Rights to counter such foreign penetration on Canadian soil, something similar to the Australian foreign interference law to protect against foreign intimidation and harassment of Canadians.
Additionally, a high-level panel of legal experts on media freedom, of which Mr. Cotler is a member, has been formed. One of the panel’s recent recommendations is to adopt emergency programs to provide relief and refuge for journalists at risk for covering issues of persecution of Falun Gong and other targets of human rights in China.