A court ruling Thursday ordered the long-standing Falun Gong appeal site structures outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver to be dismantled within seven days.
Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein issued a 37-page ruling upholding the City of Vancouver’s application seeking the removal of a hut and signs that have been part of the Falun Gong 24/7 protest since 2001.
As news of the ruling filtered through the Vancouver Falun Gong community, more than 40 practitioners gathered outside the consulate on Thursday night, marking day 2717 of the protest.
Joe Arvay, the lawyer representing the Falun Gong practitioners who have maintained the vigil in protest of the Chinese regime's ongoing persecution of their counterparts in China, has urged the group to appeal.
“We are very disappointed with this court ruling and we are seriously considering an appeal,” says Falun Dafa Association of Canada (FDAC) spokesperson Sue Zhang.
“Our fellow practitioners in China don’t have any voice, and we are here trying to be their voice, trying to stop the persecution, nothing else. We are here not for ourselves, not for any other gain or whatever, just to stop the brutal persecution.”
To raise awareness about what they say is a genocide, Falun Gong practitioners erected a wall of posters and photographs of their persecuted counterparts in China along the consulate fence in 2001.
“We have been here now over seven years, we are not interfering with anyone and we have cooperated with the city all along,” Zhang says.
Stromberg-Stein stated in the judgment that she accepted that former Mayor Sam Sullivan wanted the structures removed in 2006 “as part of his public order agenda.”
“The evidence of the now former Mayor, which I accept, is that his wish to do so had nothing to do with the fact that the structures were in front of the Chinese Consulate or because of the sensitivities of the Chinese government,” the judgment stated.
Arvay had argued that Sullivan wanted the structures removed at the behest of the Chinese regime. He said Chinese consulate officials had pressured Sullivan to get rid of the protest.
“Unfortunately former mayor Sam Sullivan initiated this case and we feel he was under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party,” says Zhang. “The two mayors before him were fine with this. We feel the Chinese government has pressured very hard to remove us.”
A report written by a Chinese spy operating in Canada suggested that due to successful lobbying by Beijing, the Canadian government had pressed the City of Vancouver to remove the protest, according to a June 2005 statement by defecting Chinese agent Hao Fengjun.
FDAC has stated that many cities in Canada and around the world with similar displays outside consulates and embassies have faced pressure from Chinese authorities. The cities of both Toronto and Ottawa have been asked to remove their sites, but city officials there have stood their ground.
The Falun Gong group maintains the City of Vancouver initially gave verbal approval for the protest which they say has had the effect of embarrassing the Chinese regime and is invaluable in raising awareness of the persecution. The regime outlawed the practice in 1999.
“We feel we have a constitutional right to be here,” says Zhang. “Canadian laws protect freedom of expression. When people are being killed for their organs to make a profit, and so many people are tortured to death just for their belief of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance … We are proud being here as Canadians, so we are very disappointed over the court ruling today.”