A rally followed by a parade consisting of roughly 1,200 Falun Gong adherents was held in downtown Toronto on July 17 to call for an end to the ongoing persecution campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against adherents in China 23 years ago.
During the rally, held outside the Ontario legislature in Queen's Park, practitioners of the spiritual group heard stories from victims of the persecution, and received words of support from some Canadian officials, including Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen.
"Religious freedom is central to a just society. No one should ever be targeted or harassed for their religion, no matter where they live," Bergen said in a letter that was read at the rally.
"Sadly, for many years, the Chinese Communist Party has been persecuting Falun Gong practitioners who have suffered greatly for their faith. Reports of unacceptable human rights abuses against the Falun Gong continue to surface, despite the fact that Falun Gong traditions are rooted in the peaceful values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance."
Former Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon, who was born in Poland when it was under communist rule, called on governments around the world to take action to help end the persecution.
"Everybody has a right to live in peace, to worship the way he or she chooses, and to have political views of their own. Freedom is a universal value, and it shouldn't be restricted by any government anywhere," he said.
"It is very important that those people in China know that there are not alone, because if they are left alone, if the world forgets, the Chinese government wins."
'Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide'Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, consists of five meditative exercises and moral teaching based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Introduced in China in 1992, the practice quickly gained widespread popularity and by 1999 it had attracted between 70 million to 100 million adherents, according to official estimates.
However, former CCP leader Jiang Zemin deemed such popularity a threat to the regime's authoritarian rule, and he launched his extensive campaign on July 20, 1999. The persecution has resulted in countless Falun Gong adherents being illegally subjected to imprisonment, forced labour, torture, and death. They are also targeted for organ harvesting, where their vital organs are forcibly extracted to supply China’s lucrative organ transplant industry.
"Intense state-run hate propaganda has turned Chinese society against tens of millions of people who practise Falun Gong in China subjecting them to discrimination, abduction, imprisonment, unbelievable torture and death," Falun Dafa Association spokesperson Joel Chipkar said at the rally.
"Legal experts affirm that crimes against humanity and genocide are occurring. Evidence also show that mass number of people who practice Falun Gong are being killed for their vital organs by the communist state."
Chipkar also said the CCP's foreign influence operations has led to the international community's acquiescence to the persecution.
"There has never been such international silence in the face of such massive crimes against humanity, as that observed in the persecution of Falun Gong over the past 23 years," he said. "Why? Because the CCP has tried to manipulate the international community into indifference by using money, political pressure, and hate propaganda to attack Falun Gong."
"Here in Canada communist agents continue to spread hatred against Falun Gong and pressure our government officials on all levels to remain silent to the persecution," he continued.
"So the Chinese Communist Party is not just targeting Falun Gong. It is attacking the moral conscience of every onlooker who is being given the choice to side with innocence or evil."
Lizon urged people to "work together to defeat this terrible government of China and bring freedom to followers of Falun Gong and all citizens of China."
"I truly hope that one day, whether we meet here or somewhere else in Toronto, we'll be celebrating our victory," he said.
On July 16, Falun Gong adherents held a candlelight vigil outside of the Chinese consulate in Toronto in protest of the Chinese regime's persecution.