OTTAWA WEST-NEPEAN – A resident of MP John Baird’s Ottawa West-Nepean riding made a very public plea to her representative today, taking a message about persecution in China to Parliament Hill.
Jing Zhi spoke briefly at a press conference in the Centre Block about her cousin Yu Han, who was arrested in China last month for practising Falun Gong.
“My cousin Yu Han is a very kind man,” Zhi said. “He shares his experience of practising Falun Gong, and let people around him know the truth about Falun Gong and the persecution.”
She said he was arrested in the middle of the night by more than 10 police officers and has been held in jail since June 13 without any visits from family.
Falun Gong – also called Falun Dafa – is a Chinese spiritual discipline that incorporates meditation and simple exercises. The communist government in China outlawed the practice of Falun Gong in 1999 and people who have continued the discipline or spoken against the ban have been imprisoned.
As minister of Foreign Affairs, Baird will travel to China between July 16 and 20. Zhi and other Falun Gong practitioners are calling on Baird to make a public statement on the crackdown on followers of the discipline while he is in China.
12 CANADIAN FAMILIES
Zhi said she represents 12 Canadian families who have family members in Chinese jails and labour camps due to their practice of Falun Gong. Those families live in communities across Canada, from Vancouver to Montreal. Some of those arrested have been sentenced to up to seven years in jail. More ominously, the sister of a Toronto woman has not been heard from since her arrest in 2002.
Falun Dafa Association of Canada president Xun Li said he hopes Baird will speak out about the issue during his trip to China, and call for an end to persecution of all Falun Gong practitioners, and the release of all prisoners, including the 12 family members of Canadians.
Li said Baird’s trip comes at an important time. The first arrests of Chinese Falun Gong followers took place 12 years ago this month, on July 20, 1999.
“Over the past 12 years, every major human rights organization in the world has reported on the persecution, torture and death of Falun Gong practitioners,” Li said. “To date there have been over 3,427 confirmed deaths.”
He said people have died from torture, malnutrition, exhaustion and the harvesting of vital organs, and estimated hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong followers may be in Chinese jails.
Li said China has stifled criticism of the crackdown on the Falun Gong community by using economic threats. He said Baird should make “a strong and direct statement on the rights of Falun Gong practitioners,” and “make Canada’s position strong and clear.”
“We hope Minister Baird will see through the attempt of the Chinese Communist Party to manipulate and deceive our government,” he said, adding China has used, “lies, hate propaganda and diplomatic and economic pressure and threats of trade loss to silence voices of concern in other countries.”