The Vancouver Falun Gong community is up in arms over what they say is years-long discrimination against them in their efforts to participate in the annual Chinese New Year parade.
The group says that each year since 2003, the Celestial Marching Band’s application to participate in the parade has been rejected. The band’s application for the 2011 parade, scheduled to take place on February 6, was again rejected, according to spokesperson Susan Fang.
The Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade Preparatory Committee rejected the application on the grounds that they no longer accept any new groups, says Fang.
When two band members went to the Chinese Freemasons Vancouver Branch on Nov. 23 to try to apply again, a “senior Freemason” was rude to them, told them to get off the property, and threw their application in the rubbish bin, Fang says. The man refused to give his name.
“Our group simply wants to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year along with the community,” says Fang.
As well as the Chinese Freemasons Vancouver Branch, there are five other parade co-organizers including the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver (CBA), which heads up the parade committee.
While the Falun Gong group has had its application rejected by the committee for eight years running, CBA president Mike Jang claims it’s not an issue of discrimination but that there is simply no space for new applicants.
“We’re not talking politics. This is a Chinese parade. I don’t know who they are, I don’t care who they are—as long as we can take them in there’s no problem.”
However, in 2007 a CBA councillor casually told the applicants that they were refused due to their protests in front of the Chinese consulate against the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong adherents in China, which were making things “difficult” for the Chinese Consul-General.
Clive Ansley, president of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong, says the longstanding refusal boils down to the Chinese Communist Party’s influence overseas and on the parade committee headed by the CBA.
“I am well aware of the committee’s tight relationship with the Chinese Consulate-General. Their motives in refusing entry to the Falun Gong are entirely transparent,” says Ansley.
The group has participated in numerous parades in B.C. Last year, the Celestial Marching Band received the special recognition award in the marching band category in the Calgary Stampede parade.
MPs have been rallying in support of the Falun Gong, including Bill Siksay, MP for Burnaby-Douglas.
“I have supported the Falun Dafa Association’s participation in the Chinese New Year Parade in the past,” said Siksay. “This is a community celebration of an important event … and I would hope that all folks who have a connection to the community in Vancouver would be welcome to attend.”
Calgary West MP Rob Anders said in an email, “I think it is a shame that Falun Gong would be excluded from any event having to do with China. Falun Gong is more Chinese than the Communist Party that oppresses people in China.”
In a previous interview with The Epoch Times, Ottawa-based Lucy Zhou of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada said incidents of interference by the Chinese regime continue to occur in Canada “as a result of the extension of the systematic persecution of Falun Gong.”
“Falun Gong practitioners in Canada, in Ottawa, have been facing constant pressure from the Chinese Embassy, which tries to ostracize the group in the Chinese community and also in the society at large.”
Zhou said that over the last ten years a “hate campaign” against Falun Gong—directed by the Chinese Embassy and consulates—has been taking place in Chinese communities in Ottawa and other cities, resulting in many instances of discrimination.
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese meditation practice praised by devotees for its health and spiritual benefits. The Chinese regime launched a persecution against its adherents in July 1999 that continues today.