With the trial of detained Canadian citizen Sun Qian scheduled to take place in Beijing this week, former justice minister Irwin Cotler has released a statement rebuking the Chinese regime for its violation of Sun’s rights.
Cotler, who acts as Sun’s counsel in Canada, said Sun’s imprisonment “is a dramatic case study in the criminalization of innocence—the persecution and prosecution of an innocent woman, not for anything she has done, but for whom she is: the bearer of truth, compassion, and tolerance.”
Sun, a Vancouver resident and a Canadian citizen since 2007, was the vice president of the multi-billion-dollar company Beijing Leadman Biochemistry Co. Ltd., and often travelled to China on business.
On Feb. 19, 2017, over two dozen police officers broke into her home in Beijing without an arrest warrant and took her away because she practises Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual discipline that has been subjected to a campaign of persecution by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Sun, 52, has since been held in the No. 1 Detention Centre in Beijing, where she has faced abuse, torture, and intense brainwashing sessions with the aim of having her renounce her faith.
Her trial is scheduled to take place on the morning of Sept. 12.
Cotler listed 10 ways in which Sun’s rights have been violated, including arbitrary and illegal arrest, prolonged and illegal detention, torture in detention threatening both her physical and mental well-being, and a pattern of harassment and intimidation of over 11 lawyers who have sought to take up her case.
“As counsel to Sun Qian, I join her lawyers in China in calling on Chinese authorities to honour their own values and rule of law, to seize and desist from their persecution and prosecution of Sun Qian, to respect international treaties and covenants to which China is a state party, and to release Sun Qian unconditionally and permit her to return and to rejoin her family in Canada,” Cotler wrote.
“This case was a frame-up right from the beginning,” said Xie Yanyi, one of Sun’s lawyers, by phone from Beijing. “It was wrongful arrest and detention. It goes completely against the principle of the burden of proof in criminal law.”
Xie describes Sun’s case as “political persecution.”
“It is all illegal, from arresting her, ransacking her home, torture, and depriving her of her right to counsel,” he said.
Sun’s family has been informed that only two people will be allowed to attend the trial, something Xie also criticized.
“A public trial should allow citizens to come and listen, let alone family members and friends—they are parties with an interest in this case, they have a right to come and listen to what happens.”
‘It is time for justice to prevail’
Over the past few days, since news of the upcoming trial emerged, Falun Gong practitioners have been rallying in cities across Canada to call for Sun’s release.
“Today we are calling for her unconditional and immediate release, because practising Falun Gong is not a crime. Telling people that Falun Gong practices truthfulness, compassion, tolerance, that Falun Gong practitioners are good people, that Falun Gong has been brutally persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party, is not a crime,” reads the statement from the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, condemning the court proceedings as a “show trial.”
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said the 19-year persecution campaign against Falun Gong practitioners “has caused untold suffering and widespread human rights violations across China. Concerns have included arbitrary arrest, unlawful imprisonment, deeply unfair trials, grave torture and ill-treatment, harsh prison conditions, and the deaths of countless prisoners. The scale of these violations has been massive.”
Neve said the court proceedings for Sun “will inevitably fall far short of the requirements for a fair trial, guaranteed in international law.”
“We call on China to unconditionally release Sun Qian, and all other Falun Gong practitioners unjustly detained in the country. It is time for justice to prevail,” Neve said in a statement.
Last December, Xie and Sun’s other lawyers wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prior to his visit to Beijing asking him to help with Sun’s release and stating that the arrests of Falun Gong practitioners in China violate Chinese law.
“Mass convictions of Falun Gong practitioners have not only affected the fate of millions of Falun Gong followers and their families, but also for a long time directly eroded and destroyed the legitimacy foundation of China’s entire judicial system, and nipped any chances of constructive reform,” the letter stated.
‘Violating every principle of rule-of-law nations everywhere’
Former cabinet minister and Nobel Prize nominee David Kilgour attended the rally across the street from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa on Sept. 10.
“Her lawyers were evidently pressured not to defend her. This is not a surprise, as lawyers who defend Falun Gong are usually persecuted,” said Kilgour, an attorney and a former prosecutor.
He gave the example of Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been repeatedly detained, arrested, jailed, “disappeared,” and brutally tortured by Chinese authorities since 2006. His family hasn’t been in touch with him since Aug. 13, 2017, and his whereabouts is unknown.
“What has happened violates every principle of rule-of-law nations everywhere.”
Sun’s nephew, Sun Jianhen, a Chinese student in Vancouver, says his aunt has been wrongfully detained.
“My aunt’s practising her belief is not a crime. She is innocent,” he said. “I hope Trudeau can intervene and speak to President Xi Jinping or other Chinese leaders, and intervene in my aunt’s case and help have her freed and returned to Canada.”
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a traditional discipline of the Buddhist school that promotes the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In 1999, the Chinese communist regime launched a violent persecution against Falun Gong due to feeling threatened by its immense popularity, among other reasons.
According to a February 2017 Freedom House special report on religious revival, repression, and resistance in communist China, the severity of the persecution of Falun Gong is designated as “very high” on the spectrum of religious persecution in that country.
Human rights groups detail widespread and severe torture cases, and independent investigations have reported on the state-sanctioned killing of Falun Gong practitioners for their vital organs. The 2017 Freedom House report noted “credible evidence suggesting that beginning in the early 2000s, Falun Gong detainees were killed for their organs on a large scale.”