Political figures from both sides of the aisle have sent messages of encouragement to Canada’s Falun Dafa community, acknowledging the brutality of the ongoing persecution of the spiritual group in China, while urging practitioners to continue peaceful resistance.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole noted that it’s been 21 years since Beijing launched an “illegal and violent persecution” campaign against Falun Gong adherents in China, as they continue to suffer at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Canada must defend religious freedom around the world, including standing up for the Falun Gong,” he said in a video message marking Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.
“Hundreds of thousands have suffered forced labour, torture, and execution since 1999, without any cause, or justification.”
O’Toole said the persecution campaign has also been extended to Canadian soil, as practitioners are routinely harassed and threatened by CCP agents.
“Here in Canada, Chinese agents have posed as students, tourists, and workers in order to get into our country and threaten those who practice Falun Gong. This is absolutely unacceptable to me, and must end immediately,” he said, adding his party would “always stand up for human rights and religious freedom, including the protection of those who practise Falun Gong.”
Liberal MP and former minister of citizenship and immigration Judy Sgro, who is also the co-chair of the Falun Dafa parliamentary friendship group in Ottawa, promised to “continue to move forward” to address human rights violations, including the persecution of Falun Gong, and thanked practitioners who “continue to raise issues of injustice around the world.”
Sgro joined a total of 921 lawmakers from 35 countries and regions worldwide who issued a joint statement on International Human Rights Day to condemn the Chinese regime’s decades-long persecution of the traditional practice. Over 50 current and former Canadian MPs and several senators also signed, including MP and former Green Party leader Elizabeth May and MP and former environment minister Peter Kent.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, which consists of meditative exercises and moral teachings centred around core principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, was made public in China in 1992. It quickly rose to popularity but became a target for persecution when former CCP leader Jiang Zemin realized there were more Falun Gong practitioners in China than Communist Party members—an estimated 100 million people. Viewing the spiritual practice as a threat to the CCP’s official doctrine of atheism, he launched a violent campaign against adherents in 1999, with the intent of “eradicating” Falun Gong.
Millions have since been illegally detained in prisons, labour camps, psychiatric wards, and other facilities. Hundreds of thousands have suffered torture, according to estimates from the Falun Dafa Information Center. At least 4,600 practitioners have died from persecution, though experts say the real toll is likely far greater due to the challenge of verifying information from China. According to investigative reports and last year’s London Tribunal, Falun Gong prisoners of conscience are also being killed for their organs to fuel China’s lucrative transplant industry.
“This is a group of millions of people whose only crime is to be human beings ... who practice a method of living which the world should emulate,” said former Canadian senator Consiglio Di Nino in a video message.
He said Falun Gong and other groups who work to raise awareness of the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses are his “heroes,” and applauded their decades-long resistance to the persecution through peaceful protest.
“I very much applaud their non-violent approach to protest. It is well received in Canada and indeed, I believe, in the world,” he said, adding practitioners should not stop raising awareness until their freedom of belief is respected in China.
Several Conservative MPs also sent messages of support to practitioners, vowing to support them in their efforts to counter the persecution.
“I will continue to work with the Falun Dafa to promote our common values and help shine light on serious human rights abuses that Falun Dafa practitioners continue to endure,” said Michael Cooper, MP for St. Albert-Edmonton.
Rachael Harder, MP for Lethbridge, Alberta, condemned the “egregious human rights violations” committed against practitioners in China, adding that Conservatives “will continue to bring this issue to the forefront of debate and pressure the Chinese government to end these deplorable acts.”
Calgary Rocky Ridge MP Pat Kelly commended practitioners for their “perseverance” in resisting persecution, as well as their ongoing efforts to “secure religious toleration in China, and an end to harassment of Canadians of Chinese descent in Canada and abroad.”
“I hope that the year ahead will bring hope and reprieve,” he added.