OTTAWA—Conservative MP Scott Reid is hoping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will raise the issue of a Canadian citizen detained in China during the APEC summit, following a “tradition” where Reid made a similar request when then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien attended APEC 15 years ago.
Reid recently wrote a letter to Trudeau suggesting that when he meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the APEC summit in Vietnam, he should press for the release of Vancouver resident Sun Qian, who is currently detained in China for practicing Falun Dafa.
Sun is a China-born businesswoman who immigrated to Canada as an investor and became a Canadian citizen. She founded the Beijing Leadman Biochemistry company and was on the Hurun Report’s list of China’s top wealthiest people from 2012 to 2016. According to her relatives, Sun began practising the Falun Dafa self-improvement and meditation discipline in 2014, which helped her recover from chronic health conditions.
Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a spiritual meditation discipline that has been severely persecuted in China under the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
“Many years ago, in 2002, I made a similar request to your predecessor, Jean Chrétien, shortly before his departure to another APEC meeting,” Reid wrote Trudeau.
At that time, Reid tabled a parliamentary motion asking Chrétien to call for the release of about a dozen imprisoned Falun Dafa adherents who had relatives in Canada when he met with the Chinese leadership during that year’s APEC summit. The motion passed with unanimous support.
All of the adherents were eventually released and allowed to come to Canada.
In an interview, Reid recalled his 2002 parliamentary motion and how it got unanimous support from different parties.
“That spirit of cross-party goodwill towards Falun Gong practitioners—recognizing that these are peaceful people who simply want to practice their spiritual beliefs—that spirit continues to exist today,” he said. “As far as I can see, Canadians, parliamentarians of all parties, continue to be very supportive of Falun Gong practitioners.”
Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal MP and minister of justice, says it’s important that the Chinese authorities realize they cannot violate the rights of a Canadian citizen with impunity.
“I think that the prime minister has expressed himself that there’s no contradiction between pursuing trade and protecting human rights, and this is a case study of how we can go to a conference and promote trade, but not at the expense of human rights,” he said.
Peter Kent, a Conservative MP and former environment minister, said Trudeau should make a point of raising Canada’s concerns about the detainment of Sun and other Falun Dafa adherents.
“We know that with regards to [Sun], she has been detained, she has suffered what can be properly characterized as torture, mistreatment,” Kent said.
“I think the prime minister should make a point of raising Canada’s legitimate concerns not only about this single case, but about the infringement of the rights of other Chinese Canadians, or of the families of Chinese Canadians, who are being persecuted merely for their beliefs,” he said.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May also expressed hope that the prime minister can pursue diplomatic means to ensure Sun is released.
“The treatment of practitioners of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong is an egregious violation of human rights and rights of religious freedom, rights to speak freely, and most of the MPs in the Parliament—I know whenever I raise the issue, we have a lot of support on all sides of the House,” she said.
NDP MP Hélène Laverdière agreed that Trudeau should raise the issue of human rights during APEC, including all “consular cases.”
“I know that the prime minister is going to Vietnam, and I think it will be very important for him to raise human rights concerns,” she said.