PARLIAMENT of CANADA

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Publications - May 12, 2004
 

37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Wednesday, May 12, 2004




¹ 1530
V         The Chair (Hon. David Kilgour (Edmonton Southeast, Lib.))
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup (President, Canada Tibet Committee)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup

¹ 1535
V         Mr. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa (Representative, International Campaign for Tibet (Washington))

¹ 1540

¹ 1545

¹ 1550

¹ 1555
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier (Brampton West—Mississauga, Lib.))
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier)
V         Mr. Jared Genser (President, Freedom Now)

º 1600

º 1605

º 1610
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier)
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, CPC)
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier)
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier)
V         Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ)
V         Mr. Jared Genser

º 1615
V         Mr. Tenzin Dargyal (President, Montreal Branch, Canada-Tibet Committee)
V         The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier)
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

º 1620
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough

º 1625
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         Hon. Eleni Bakopanos

º 1630
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Eleni Bakopanos
V         Mr. Tenzin Dargyal
V         Hon. Eleni Bakopanos
V         Mr. Tenzin Dargyal
V         Hon. Eleni Bakopanos
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Colleen Beaumier
V         Mr. Jared Genser

º 1635
V         Ms. Colleen Beaumier
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         Ms. Colleen Beaumier
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Colleen Beaumier
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai

º 1640
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough

º 1645
V         Mr. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         The Chair

º 1650
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         Mr. Jared Genser
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         Mr. Thubten Samdup
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         The Chair

º 1655
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         Ms. Colleen Beaumier
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Xun Li (President, Falun Dafa Association of Canada)

» 1700
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak (National Coordinator, Falun Dafa Association of Canada)

» 1705
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Lucy Zhou (National Coordinator, Falun Dafa Association of Canada)

» 1710
V         The Chair
V         The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Stephen Knowles)
V         The Chair
V         The Clerk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak

» 1715
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Xun Li
V         Ms. Lucy Zhou

» 1720
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         Mr. Xun Li

» 1725
V         Ms. Lucy Zhou
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         Mr. Xun Li
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         Mr. Xun Li
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Xun Li

» 1730
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Grace Wollensak
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Alexa McDonough
V         The Chair
V         The Clerk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Xun Li
V         The Chair










CANADA

Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade


NUMBER 004 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¹  +(1530)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Hon. David Kilgour (Edmonton Southeast, Lib.)): I'm not sure if we have a quorum yet, but we can certainly start to hear evidence. I am told we have a quorum for evidence.

    We're most honoured to have the president of the Canada Tibet Committee back with us this week, Mr. Thubten Samdup.

    Perhaps, Mr. Samdup, you'd like to introduce the other people with you at the table.

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup (President, Canada Tibet Committee): I'd like to introduce Geshe Lobsang Tenpa. At the last minute yesterday, in a rush, I was able to bring him up from New York. He's going to give a statement today. Then we have Tenzin Dargyal from the Canada Tibet Committee here, and Jared Genser from Freedom Now in Washington, D.C.

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    The Chair: Is it the same as last week? You'll each speak? Do you wish to speak first, or do you wish—

+-

    Mr. Thubten Samdup: I will speak first, followed by Geshe; then Tenzin will say a few words, and then Jared.

    I want to thank the chair and members for hosting this second hearing on the human rights situation in Tibet, in follow-up to the Dalai Lama's visit to Canada this month. We very much appreciate the interest you have shown in learning more about the situation in Tibet today.

    As you know, the Tibetan people have no control over the policies that affect their lives. This is true not only in Tibet but across China, because basic freedoms, such as the right to freedom of opinion, expression, and association, are severely curtailed.

    The Canada Tibet Committee is an active member of the Canadian NGO coalition on China. For the past six years, the coalition has been asking both the department of foreign affairs and the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs to evaluate the effectiveness of Canada's bilateral human rights dialogue in China. The dialogue is currently the primary mechanism in place through which the Government of Canada encourages the People's Republic of China to respect human rights.

    Last week, the speakers representing Rights and Democracy and Amnesty International provided you with a brief description of the dialogue and its shortcomings. However, I believe this committee or the full foreign affairs committee must, as a matter of urgency, take a very serious look at the bilateral dialogue with China in the context of the upcoming international policy review. The objective of this evaluation exercise would be to ensure transparency and accountability in the dialogue process and to make recommendations for strengthening its effectiveness. It has now been seven years since the bilateral dialogue was created, and an evaluation is long overdue.

    Again, as I said last week, I think it's important and I want to re-emphasize here the point I have been making throughout this visit of His Holiness: that it has always been in my experience very difficult to approach the question of China's behaviour in Tibet and its continuing oppression of religious groups of all persuasions. But we must remember that China's future depends on political stability as well as economic growth.

    In the case of Tibet, there are different views in Beijing over whether the Dalai Lama is the problem or the solution in Tibet. The hardliners believe that without the Dalai Lama, Tibet would be forgotten. Those rebellious monks and nuns could be brought under control, and the steady process of assimilation by massive population transfer of Han Chinese from China and the slow destruction of Tibet's unique culture and language could continue.

    But there is another way of looking at it. The Dalai Lama has been a powerful advocate for religious and political freedom, but he also has restrained a very frustrated and angry community that frequently questions the effectiveness of non-violence. If they chose to, the Tibetans inside and outside of China could certainly do damage and serve as an example to those discontented Chinese who have lost out in the last two decades of widening inequality.

    Beijing might care to consider what would happen to Tibetan frustration and sense of injustice without the Dalai Lama's restraining hand. Untold numbers of Tibetans have died as a direct and indirect result of Chinese occupation. Just recently, while His Holiness was in this country, three Tibetans were starving themselves to death outside the doors of the United Nations in New York, asking the UN to act on its own resolutions over Tibet.

    In our view, a negotiated solution is well within reach, if Canada cared to intervene and play the role of an honest broker to bring the two parties to a negotiating table. Tibetans are reasonable people. They want their culture, their faith, and their way of life to survive. Is it too much to ask? China would not collapse if these just demands were met.

    In an age of terrorism, public rhetoric against violence is a cheap currency for many people. Actions are another matter. In Tibet, the violence has all been one way, and for the non-violent there has been no reward. It is time to rethink our policy and start promoting non-violence in the world if we are to eradicate terror in the world.

    I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Geshe Lobsang Tenpa, who was kind enough to come to Ottawa from New York for this hearing on a last-minute request.

¹  +-(1535)  

    He left Tibet in 2000. He was a student of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is currently on the list to be executed this year in December.

    I will pass it on to Geshe Lobsang Tenpa. He doesn't speak much English, so I will translate for him.

+-

    Mr. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa (Representative, International Campaign for Tibet (Washington)): My name is Geshe Lobsang Tenpa. I arrived in New York in May 2000. I work with the Tibetan community of New York.

    First of all, I am very grateful that I was given this opportunity to say a few words about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is to be executed sometime this December. I studied with him, and I will say a few words about him.

    In these few minutes I want to talk about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, why he was accused and why he did not have a proper trial. Since I have studied with him I have some inside knowledge about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

    Tenzin Delek Rinpoche went to India in 1982. He studied for five years in India at the Tibetan monastery. Then he returned to Tibet in 1987. In these five years while he was in India studying in the monastery, he felt it was important that he return to Tibet to help his community and his monastery. That's when he decided to return to eastern Tibet in 1987.

    In 1987 the first thing he wanted to do was to rebuild the monastery. When he tried that, he was not given permission to rebuild the monastery in that town. When he didn't get that permission, he went to Beijing. At that time the late Panchen Rinpoche was alive then. He told him he wanted to rebuild the monastery and that he wasn't allowed to rebuild it. He asked if Panchen Rinpoche could help. He was given the authorization from Beijing with the help of Panchen Rinpoche in 1988. Then he returned and started building the monastery.

¹  +-(1540)  

    And then he started, really, rebuilding the monasteries. First he built in his town and then after that he built eight more monasteries, and then he started working on building small hospitals, old age homes, and children's nurseries in that area.

    He also got himself involved with environmental protection and deforestation, in those areas where the local people were feeling helpless, that they could not do much. He helped the local community and liaised with the government officials. He got very involved in that.

    He's been very instrumental in educating the general local population in terms of health care, education, and social affairs. In every respect he's played a very important role and he was very well respected within the community.

    Unfortunately, after all that, he was accused of some activities that he was not guilty of, and he wanted to speak on those issues.

    One thing he always tells the Tibetan community is that respecting the Dalai Lama's wishes and speeches is very important. Following the Dalai Lama's directives is important for world peace, the unity of the people, and the stability of the nation. Those are very important. Obviously that did not please the authorities, because any Tibetan who would respect and listen to the Dalai Lama totally went against the wishes of the authorities, and they saw him as a threat to the stability and the security of the country.

¹  +-(1545)  

    The other reason was because of his popularity and the respect he got, more and more people were paying attention to the teachings of Buddhism, and that also did not please the authorities.

    There was a population of 10,000 people, and they saw that as a direct threat.

    So since he was giving many teachings in that area to many Tibetans and non-Tibetans, even to the Chinese who were Buddhists, his popularity started growing, and the Chinese authorities saw that as a direct threat. That was one of the reasons they were not too pleased with his activities.

    Also, he's always been very outspoken about the lack of proper education for the Tibetans, and the local Tibetans have not enjoyed fundamental rights. So he was accused, twice in the past...that all his activities were directed towards splitting the unity of the country. He has been accused of those crimes.

    In 1997 there was a summons issued against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, saying that all his activities were engaged in creating confusion and instability in something like 18 counties that he was very actively involved in. They tried to arrest him in 1997.

    So Tenzin Delek Rinpoche escaped into the mountains. For about five months he hid in the mountains and the whole population tried to help hide him. The local people starting collecting signatures, asking the authorities to pardon him. For five months he was in the mountains.

¹  +-(1550)  

    Again in 2000 they tried to arrest him because he started a school for about 300 children without a permit from the authorities. Again they tried to arrest him, and he had to run. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa escaped into India. After he escaped to India, he heard that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had again run off to the mountains. After he arrived in New York he heard about this, that he had run again.

    On April 3, 2002, in Chengdu, there was a bomb that exploded. Rinpoche and one of his students were arrested because they accused Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup of being involved with that bomb. He was arrested on April 7, 2002.

    They've always tried to arrest Tenzin Delek Rinpoche because they have always seen him as a threat in the area. This incident in Chengdu, the bomb, gave them a good excuse to arrest Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and his student Lobsang Dhondup. Regarding the details of it, Geshe Lobsang Tenpa worked on this information with Human Rights Watch. I would ask the committee to accept this for the record from Human Rights Watch. It's called “Trials of a Tibetan Monk: The Case of Tenzin Delek”. This has been a great concern to the Tibetan community at large because Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was accused of something for which he was not responsible.

    On December 2, 2002, they passed the sentence that Lobsang Dhondup and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche were going to be executed. At that hearing there were about 100 local leaders and Rinpoche's two close relatives. That's when they passed the sentence.

¹  +-(1555)  

    So Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was brought in by two guards. He looked very weak. The first thing they did was make the accusation that he was very involved in splitting up the country and was a threat to the unity of the country.

    Madam Chair, I would request that this book from Human Rights Watch be accepted for your files.

    The execution of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche most probably will take place this December, so if there is anything this committee can do to help, that would be his last request--to do everything possible that this does not happen.

    Thank you.

+-

    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier (Brampton West—Mississauga, Lib.)): We're going to hear from Jared Genser before we get into the questioning.

    Did you want to do a presentation as well? Were you planning on speaking?

    A witness: No, we can go to the questions and answers.

+-

    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier): We'll hear Jared next.

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    Mr. Jared Genser (President, Freedom Now): Good afternoon, Madam Chair, members of the committee and staff, as well as guests.

    My name is Jared Genser, and I'm the president of Freedom Now, a non-profit organization whose mission is to free prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts.

    I am particularly pleased to be here today for several reasons. First, I've been following your committee's probe of China's human rights record with great interest--especially following the recent visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Canada and his historic meeting with Prime Minister Martin.

    Secondly, Canada is of great importance to the People's Republic of China. For example, on his recent trip to Canada, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China attaches great importance to Canada-China relations and looks forward to working together with the new Canadian leadership “in cultivating a richer and more substantive partnership of all-round cooperation between the two countries”.

    Finally, on a more personal note, I feel a great affinity for Canada and the Canadian people, as my wife is actually a Canadian and we spend a great deal of time with her family, who live in Toronto and Montreal.

    In my testimony today I plan to discuss my views on the human rights situation in China, using the arbitrary detention of individuals in both China and Tibet as a way to illustrate the broader challenges to all of us who care about improving the human rights situation there.

    Almost one month ago, after the defeat of another U.S. resolution on the human rights situation in the PRC at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said, “We urge the U.S. side to face reality squarely, draw lessons from this failure, abandon confrontation and tackle its human rights differences with China properly through dialogues and exchanges.”

    I'm here today because, sadly, my experience has been that despite their strong rhetoric about the importance of dialogue over confrontation, the PRC is frequently unwilling to engage in these conversations. I personally support engagement with China. I agreed with the decision of the United States, as an illustration, to grant permanent normal trading relations to China. I have promoted increasing both the quantity and quality of international exchanges between China and other countries in the world, and I have a deep respect for China and the Chinese people. Yet it is because the PRC is unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue on human rights in private that those of us who care about these issues have no choice but to speak about them publicly.

    A prime example of the PRC's unwillingness to engage in dialogue can be found in the case of Dr. Yang Jianli, a Chinese national and U.S. permanent resident with doctorates from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, who was blacklisted after the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy. I've had the privilege of working with Dr. Yang's wife, Christina Fu--a woman of tremendous strength and fortitude--over the past two years since her husband was detained in China.

    Yang Jianli heard about labour unrest in northeastern China and wanted to observe it for himself. After the PRC detained him on April 26, 2002, it had the opportunity to press what could have been a routine case against him for illegal entry. Instead, by systematically and harshly violating Yang's human rights and subsequently charging him with espionage, despite no basis in fact for this charge, the PRC transformed his case into an international cause célèbre and an ongoing irritant in U.S.-China relations, as well as European Union-China relations. How could this happen?

    During the first year of detention, in violation of both Chinese and international law, Yang Jianli was held incommunicado and in solitary confinement, denied access to counsel, family, and all reading materials, and he was interrogated by PRC authorities over 100 times. In addition, the PRC virtually ignored the entreaties of dozens of U.S. senators and members of Congress, members of the European Parliament, and even Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    On June 4, 2003, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, consisting of representatives from Algeria, France, Hungary, Paraguay, and even Iran, made public its ruling that Yang was being held in violation of international law. The U.S. State Department immediately called for Yang's release, and shortly thereafter a congressional resolution calling for Yang's release passed unanimously in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

    Yang was finally put on trial in China, more than 15 months after being initially detained, on August 4, 2003, in the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court. On December 1, 2003, the time period under Chinese law for the court to issue a verdict expired. He has been held in violation of Chinese law for six months since then, in a Chinese-style political-legal gridlock.

    What we do know is that Yang Jianli's ongoing detention in violation of Chinese law is not atypical. In June 2003, the National People's Congress resolved to put an end to the “chronic disease” of illegally prolonged detention.

º  +-(1600)  

    According to Progress in China's Human Rights Cause (2003), a report issued by the PRC on April 1, 2004, the Chinese government corrected 25,736 cases during the year 2003. In addition, the report touts the strict system for investigating and dealing with extended detention.

    Despite the general progress, however, Yang Jianli's case is a high-profile and exceptionally disturbing counter-example. Sadly, there are thousands of Yang Jianlis on trial, few with his high profile perhaps, but many in prison for articulating their aspiration that China provide freedom for its people.

    Before commenting further with my recommendations for what can be done, given the context for these hearings taking place, I also want to provide some brief comments about two other high-profile prisoner cases regarding Tibetans.

    In May 1995 Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the six-year-old boy identified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, disappeared. In 1996 the PRC admitted to holding the boy and his family in “protective custody”, thereby admitting to the crime of kidnapping. After repeated attempts to locate and visit the boy, not one international agency or human rights organization has been allowed to meet with the Panchen Lama or his family, and his condition remains uncertain.

    Furthermore, in an attempt to establish their pre-eminence in all internal affairs of China, political or otherwise, the atheistic Chinese communist government nominated and selected their own 11th Panchen Lama in November 1995. Their selection, a six-year-old boy named Gyaltsen Norbu, is another young victim in China's plan to control the Tibetan people, their religion, and their nation.

    I want also to comment briefly on the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, which was already discussed earlier in this hearing. He is the highly respected Buddhist leader in Tibet who, according to Human Rights Watch, has “struggled to develop social, medical, educational and religious institutions for the impoverished nomadic Tibetan communities in Sichuan province. He also worked to preserve the area's fragile ecological balance in the face of unbridled logging and mining activities.” He is also an advocate of the Dalai Lama's philosophy of non-violence.

    Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was arrested, along with Lobsang Dhondup, in April 2002 in connection with a series of bombing incidents, in which he was allegedly involved. At closed trials in December 2002, both men were sentenced to death, but Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was given a two-year reprieve. In response to international pressure, a fair and open retrial was promised by the Chinese government. Yet at a secret retrial in January 2003, the death sentences were upheld, and Lobsang Dhondup was immediately executed. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's two-year reprieve will expire in December 2004.

    I would like to mention one approach that the Government of Canada might wish to consider. The United States government passed the Tibetan Policy Act. That act is a formal statement of the United States Congress to say that it's the policy of the United States government to encourage dialogue between the United States and China focusing on the issue of Tibet and also to encourage specific dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the government of China to resolve through negotiations the conflict there.

    What can we conclude about the state of the international human rights dialogue with China when examining the high-profile cases of Yang Jianli, the Panchen Lama, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche? To put things charitably, we have a very long way to go.

    Sadly, these cases are representative of the hundreds of thousands of widespread and ongoing human rights violations committed against individuals in the People's Republic of China. Official government statistics indicated that there were 230,000 people in re-education through labour camps in 2003. The Supreme People's Procuratorate reported that from 1998 through 2002, over 300,000 persons were detained for periods longer than permitted by law. Credible sources estimate that as many as 2,000 persons remain in prison for their activity during the June 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The number of individuals serving sentences for the now-repealed crime of counter-revolution is estimated at 500 to 600. Many of these persons were imprisoned for the non-violent expression of their political views.

    As I mentioned at the outset, I firmly believe that Canada has an especially important role to play both with China and internationally.

    I will now conclude with three suggestions for your consideration as to how to elevate concern about these cases and the broader and more systemic human rights conditions in China that these cases represent.

º  +-(1605)  

    First, I urge you to raise the human rights situation in China to the highest levels, both within the Canadian government and the PRC directly. In the United States, much as it is here, I know there are numerous bilateral issues with China. There is the case involving North Korea, the war on terror, and the $100 billion trade deficit, to name a few. Nevertheless, it is critical that the Chinese leadership understand that all of us, as freedom-loving people, will continue to care about the extent to which the PRC is abiding by its commitments under its own law and international law. It is also important not to allow the PRC to use the individual release of prisoners as a public relations tool to deflect attention from their record. Indeed, these cases are symptomatic of broader problems. While each case I described needs to be resolved, and resolved immediately, that resolution is only a small step in the direction of real political, judicial, and legal reform.

    Secondly, I urge you to engage in dialogue with the private sector to apply pressure on the PRC in business terms. Bilateral trade between Canada and China was over $20 billion in 2002. China, not including Hong Kong, is Canada's third largest national trading partner, after the United States and Japan, and Canada's fourth largest export market, after the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

    In my view, this gives your government and private sector substantial leverage with the PRC. In simple terms, as much as the PRC may resent “unwarranted interference in their affairs”, the oppression of their own people has a real business implication. The onslaught of negative news stories about the oppression of democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the oppression of the Tibetan people, and numerous other violations will eventually have an impact on Canadian buying habits. The attention on China's human rights record will only increase in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. China surely does not aspire to be the next Burma, at least in terms of the real economic backlash against its human rights record.

    Finally, I would urge Canada to continue its multilateral efforts to apply pressure on the PRC. I chaired Canada's recent election to the UN Commission on Human Rights for the 2005-2007 term. Using the commission and other forums, Canada can exercise its influence to increase both diplomatic and public pressure on the PRC.

    While there is clearly a long way to go, we should all take inspiration from the wisdom of Chinese philosopher Confucius, who said: “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.”

    Thank you. I'm happy to answer any questions.

º  +-(1610)  

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    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier): Thank you very much.

    We'll now go to questioning.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, CPC): Madam Chair, because I came late and didn't hear very much, I'm going to let my colleagues ask the questions, but I'll reserve my right to come back and ask questions. I'm not giving up my right; I'm only moving it forward.

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    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier): That is so noble of you.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Thank you, Madam.

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    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier): Mr. Rocheleau.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ): Thank you, Madam Chair.

    Gentlemen, thank you for your testimony. Your statements have made us even more keenly aware of the dramatic and pathetic situation that both the Chinese and Tibetans are experiencing. We thank you and we hope that the situation will be settled in both cases.

    My first question is addressed to Mr. Genser, and it came to me as I was listening to the first presentation. Mr. Genser, in light of the deplorable situation that has been described with regard to human rights and the overall socio-political situation in China, how can we explain that private American interests are settling in there so blithely? Are the multinational corporations that are making China the manufacturing plant of the world, as it is said, strictly interested in profit? Are certain messages not getting through? Do people not understand or are they blinded by the pursuit of profit? What are we to think about this phenomenon that is causing more and more trouble, and perverse effects right here in North America? I am thinking in particular of plant closures. What must we think of this political or socio-political lack of awareness?

[English]

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    Mr. Jared Genser: Thank you very much, Mr. Rocheleau, for your question. Indeed, it is a very important one.

    I think I probably have several thoughts on your question. The first is that clearly the private sector in the United States and Canada has a great deal of interest in China because of the massive size of its market. Clearly, profit is indeed one of the major motivations of U.S. companies to go to China, profit that is driven by cheap labour and a massive market in which products can be sold.

    Why the people of the United States are not as familiar with the situation of human rights in China is indeed a harder question to answer. There has been a substantial amount of news coverage given to human rights issues in China, and many issues have been raised publicly about human rights violations there. But I don't think the level of scrutiny has risen to that of, for example, Burma. In the case of Burma, sanctions have been put in place by the United States Congress. There has been a lot of public education about it. An import ban has been put in place. A lot more people, when they saw a product relating to Burma that had already been in place prior to the ban, would almost put it back on the shelf. Imports have dropped substantially in the last several years as a result of it.

    My hope would be that as the Olympics approach and as additional scrutiny is placed on the government of China as people begin to focus on Beijing, a lot more people will become aware of the abysmal record of the People's Republic of China with respect to human rights.

    I would finally note that clearly corporations have a substantial amount of leverage with the People's Republic of China. In the United States, for example, there is something called the US-China Business Council, which is an umbrella group for private corporations doing business there. They have been quietly helpful behind the scenes, raising some of these kinds of issues to the PRC. But ultimately they are businesses, and unfortunately they are driven primarily by profit.

    I think for those of us who care about improving the situation in China, we need to do a better job of holding companies accountable, as shareholders of these companies, to abide by basic standards of human rights and labour rights, and to ensure that whatever engagements they're having with China are actually productive.

º  +-(1615)  

[Translation]

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    Mr. Tenzin Dargyal (President, Montreal Branch, Canada-Tibet Committee): I would like to add that the Tibetan movement is not against business. We of the Canada-Tibet Committee, following the advice given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, would like to cultivate better relations with businessmen and women in order to see how they could use their relations with China to undertake negotiations. So, I want to reiterate that we are not anti-business. I myself was a businessman and I lived in China for three years. We appreciate the value of what business people can contribute and we intend to work with them very closely.

    As Mr. Genser explained, Canada has very good relations with China. There are many families and businesses here who can help us to attain our objective.

    We must also understand that even if American international trade continues to grow at quite an impressive rate, as Mr. Genser mentioned, the President of the United States makes an annual report on negotiations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and China. We here in Canada should also aim for something as impressive.

[English]

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    The Acting Chair (Ms. Colleen Beaumier): Ms. McDonough, please.

+-

    Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

    Welcome to our witnesses.

    It's the first opportunity I've had to say to members of the Canada Tibet Committee how very welcome the visit was of the Dalai Lama to Ottawa and to other parts of the country as well.

    I was very inspired by his trying to appeal to the commonality of all religious organizations to rise above religious sectarianism and embrace a common value-based spirituality. I think we would all be well advised to be taking that under serious advisement, given the potential in this world, and the reality in this world, of too much conflict that arises out of undue sectarianism.

    Having said that, I'm interested in trying to get a more specific understanding of one of your recommendations, which is really that we, as Canadians, and through the Canadian government, be trying to find the ways to raise the human rights atrocities and violations in the context of trade relations. I think it's no secret that many governments--and the Canadian government is no exception--shy away from doing that.

    I'm wondering if you could elaborate more specifically on how you feel we can be doing that. Is it a matter of being more concrete and more specific about what are the various corporations that are participating in various commercial transactions and trade relations to which we should be appealing more directly? In that case, is there information that you could be supplying both to the foreign affairs and international trade committee, of which this is a subcommittee, and the Canadian government that would enable us to try to bring this kind of pressure to bear, to open dialogue with those companies, and to see what can be done jointly? Exactly how would you hope we might do that?

    The second question, somewhat unrelated, is around the whole issue of the particular persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. I note that it is suggested that close to half of the number of Chinese people, for example, being held in labour camps today in China are those who are practitioners of Falun Gong. I'm wondering if you could comment on specific kinds of initiatives you feel are appropriate and that you would appeal to this committee to address in regard to those who are being victimized.

º  +-(1620)  

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    The Chair: We have a delegation of Falun Gong, as you probably know, who, if there's time at the end, would like to speak to us. So perhaps this part of the delegation would rather leave that to them, if that's acceptable.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I apologize. I was a few minutes late--unavoidably--coming in, so I was unaware that we were going to be doing that. I'd be very happy to defer the question to the second half of the meeting and ask the witness to focus on the first.

º  +-(1625)  

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: I'll answer the first question.

    We've been working with the Government of Canada on the situation of Tibet for almost 20 years now, and for the past four years we have been very focused on the question: what can Canada do to really come up with something tangible to help the Tibet issue? That's when we said, okay, over the years when we have met with Canadians, we have found that Canadians are very supportive, they've felt that our position has been very reasonable, and they've said, look, we'll be more than happy to speak with our members of Parliament and we're sure they will see our way.

    We started working through that, and in the past four years, as a result, we have 165 members of Parliament who have seen that our request was a reasonable one. The Dalai Lama, as you all know, is on the record that he's not seeking independence. He's asking for genuine autonomy for his people. As I said before and as I said last week, we feel it's such a reasonable request. And the Dalai Lama would be the first one to say that China should not be isolated.

    China is a very important country. The Chinese people are brothers and sisters. They shouldn't suffer. There should not be trade sanctions against them. They should be brought into the mainstream, but there is a gentle persuasiveness that Canada can use because of its relationship with the Chinese.

    For a minute, as the Dalai Lama would say, we have to forget. We have to say to ourselves that we're just basically human beings, number one. We're not Canadians, Tibetan, or Chinese; we're human beings. As human beings we seek happiness and we try to overcome suffering, and in that respect we have to look at how Canada, a country that prides itself on being a peacemaker and the defender of human rights, which has some values, very important values that Canadians really cherish.... Here's a man who has become over the years synonymous with non-violence and peace. I'm saying, my God, if we really believe in this man, it's about time we give him some concrete support. We can't just give him lip support and let him lose his faith in front of his own people, and that's exactly what's happening today.

    Many Tibetans really find it very difficult. They find themselves torn between the Dalai Lama, loyalty to him and loyalty to their country. They are witnessing their own existence being wiped out, and the world community is just watching and going gaga over the Dalai Lama.

    So we're saying, okay, Canada is in a good position--and I think Canadians can, if there is a political will--to speak to the Chinese and say, look, we are taking no position on the future of Tibet; we just want to bring the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government to a negotiating table and peacefully resolve this issue once and for all. I think it will also set an example to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and all the other areas.

    I think it's very important. It's a very unique opportunity that I see. There is momentum. There is an interest in this country. Just the fact of, as I said, 165 members of Parliament supporting this is very significant.

+-

    The Chair: Madam Bakopanos, it's your turn.

    By the way, are you sharing your time?

+-

    Hon. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.): I don't mind.

    I have one question, because we did have an opportunity to meet, as you well know, and thank you for coming again. As you know, I've been very supportive, and so have a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the House.

    My question is really directed to Mr. Genser. With all the effort that has taken place by the United States, why then--and maybe it's not a question I should be addressing to you but to the President of the United States--have those efforts not produced any results? That's the first part of my question.

    The second part has to do with what we discussed the last time the witnesses were here. I think it's important, now that Canada is a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights, that this is where, at the moment, we should leverage our influence. That doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to work on the political level in terms of the members of Parliament on both sides of the House to assure that our government continues to do whatever it can behind the scenes and in the UN commission. But again, I'll leave it at that for the moment, because we have only very limited time.

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    Mr. Jared Genser: Sure, and thanks for your question.

    Indeed, I am not here today representing the U.S. government, but I have to say that as an American I feel free to criticize my own government, both at home and abroad, if that's what's called for by a question.

    On the question of why there have been no results, I think there's probably a three-fold answer to it. First, I would say that the United States has a lot of other priorities right now, and that's hard for me to say as a human rights lawyer. But the reality is, as I mentioned briefly in my testimony, I know that the first issue on the agenda for the United States with China is North Korea, and then comes the war on terror, and then comes the trade deficit, and so on. So I think the first reason is a lack of attention to human rights issues.

    I think the second reason there are no results is that this is not the same as going up against a country that can be pushed around or bullied by the United States. Countries that we give lots of foreign aid money to are much more susceptible to pressure, to change their behaviour on human rights, because they want our financial assistance, and we can offer our carrot in exchange for something.

    So we just don't have the ability, as the United States, to offer any carrot in terms of financial assistance, in terms of adjusting their human rights record.

    I think the final reason we've had no results is that the United States has not done a good enough job, in my opinion, on working with other countries around the world on its human rights dialogue with China, so that it is not the United States speaking on its own.

    I say frankly and with much sadness that looking at the recent events in Iraq and the abuse of prisoners there, and looking at people being held in detention in Guantanamo Bay, without access to counsel, the United States has not exactly enhanced its reputation as a defender of human rights around the world in recent years. And I say that with much disappointment as an American who is proud to be a U.S. citizen.

    But I think when you put those three things together it makes for a very difficult situation. And I have said publicly in the United States, and I would say here publicly as well, that the United States has to do a much more effective job of working with countries around the world to push the Chinese government on a singular message. There is indeed a dialogue between the U.S. and China on human rights, and between the EU.... Information is exchanged, there's no doubt about it, but it is not such a well-coordinated effort that it can really deliver a message in a way that the Chinese will be forced to listen.

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    Hon. Eleni Bakopanos: There is something you could do. You could work with Canada to assure that Canada becomes a mediator. If I were to make a suggestion, I would say that if the Canadian government had the backing of the United States saying, yes, we're going to back you if you go in there and act as a mediator, I think that would go a long way, in my opinion, in terms of assisting the work that we would do in Canada. But I think somebody else might--

º  +-(1630)  

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    Mr. Jared Genser: I agree with your assessment. I'd be delighted, actually, and there are a lot of people....

    I am just going to mention very briefly that when you think about specific actions that your Parliament could take, while the United States is clearly not an example to look to on many issues these days, that being said, one thing that is quite helpful actually relates to Ms. McDonough's previous question about trade.

    When the United States voted to allow China to enter the WTO and voted for permanent normal trading relations, the compromise that was made with human rights groups at the time was to create a monitoring body called the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. That's jointly appointed by the President...with several members, as well as members of Congress. And they actually have a staff now of about 20 to 25 people who do nothing but examine human rights issues relating to China and who report back to Congress on that.

    So I would say that's one way the Canadian Parliament could have additional information about what's going on there.

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    The Chair: Is that okay, Ms. Bakopanos?

+-

    Hon. Eleni Bakopanos: I think there's somebody else wanting to answer, though--Mr. Dargyal.

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    Mr. Tenzin Dargyal: Results are also very important for the Canada Tibet Committee, and that's why we focused on the MPs. As we saw the counter rise from zero MPs to 166, I can tell you there was nothing more motivating than as you see it.

    We've been lobbying for 17 years, and frankly, we said, are we making a difference?

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    Hon. Eleni Bakopanos: Yes, you are.

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    Mr. Tenzin Dargyal: Thank you. I think we saw that.

    We realize that in our campaign what we're asking for is a bit ambitious, which is that Canada act as an honest broker between His Holiness and China, but at the same time there's a huge range of issues that we will work on together.

    Clearly, for Canada to act as a peacemaker is the ultimate victory for us. But there are many baby steps, and I think if we look at the key stakeholders, when we say Canada can make a difference, what does that mean?

    There is the Canadian public. I think clearly we saw that they're supportive of us. There are the MPs. We have the majority of the Parliament. There's also the department of foreign affairs, and the Prime Minister's office. So I think if those four stakeholders...if we agree to work together on baby steps, which must include Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and the Panchen Lama, we all walk away with a very nice win-win situation.

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    Hon. Eleni Bakopanos: Thank you.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much for filling in, Ms. Beaumier. I appreciate your doing it.

    Colleen.

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    Ms. Colleen Beaumier: I think, really, we have an immediate issue, and then we have another that will obviously be a long-term issue. One of the things about those of us who have been champions of human rights is that when we talk, we speak to the converted, and we spin our wheels and spin our wheels and become very frustrated.

    I met with someone in Falun Dafa before, and one of the things I think is very important is this. We as parliamentarians can send petitions and pressure the government, but I really and truly believe it is Canadians, Americans, and Europeans who must stand up and demonstrate.... I think one of the very important things--and I disagree with the Dalai Lama--is that the Olympics should be boycotted, not by governments but by citizens of different governments around the world, but that's long term.

    How much effect are we going to have in saving these two men, which is the immediate problem you're addressing here today, and how much luck have you had in saving people who have been sentenced to death for reasons of conscience?

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    Mr. Jared Genser: Let me answer the second question, and the answer is, the one time I tried I succeeded. Freedom Now represented Ayub Masih, who is a Pakistani Christian who'd been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. We won his case at the United Nations.

    As I was referencing before, the United States has leverage with Pakistan that it unfortunately doesn't have with China. In that case we got almost every senator who's a member of the Senate appropriations committee Subcommittee on Foreign Operations to write a confidential letter to President Musharraf saying this needs to get resolved. Within a month the supreme court of Pakistan was called into session. They reversed the conviction and acquitted him, and he's now living happily in northern Virginia.

º  +-(1635)  

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    Ms. Colleen Beaumier: So is the UN dealing with these two cases?

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    Mr. Jared Genser: The problem is that a UN decision is not worth the paper it's printed on unless it's used to then mobilize political and public relations pressure. Unfortunately, I've found that a lot of people working on individual cases aren't as focused as they perhaps need to be to sequence the legal, the political, and the PR in a way where they can systematically have not just a sort of low-level ongoing pressure but spikes of pressure that really get the attention of governments.

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    Ms. Colleen Beaumier: So what can we do to save these men?

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    Mr. Jared Genser: Well, I wish I had a great answer for you. If I did, then I would be quite effective. I don't. All I can say is, clearly this is going to take the work of people, parliaments, and legislatures around the world coming together and calling for someone's release. Our experience has been that shining a bright light on injustice around the world much more often than not improves the chances of someone being treated well and improves the chances of someone's release.

    Obviously, it didn't do much good for his colleague who was summarily executed, so unfortunately we can't be uniformly successful. But having these kinds of hearings and raising these kinds of issues directly with the Chinese are the kinds of things that need to be done.

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    The Chair: Your time is up on the government side, and Mr. Obhrai has been very patient.

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    Ms. Colleen Beaumier: Which is unusual for him--extremely unusual.

    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: I gave you my time.

    Actually, I apologize. I'm late because I was very peacefully working hard to overthrow this government here.

    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: I have heard from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I've heard from you. This is my third or fourth committee hearing. I understand your plea and what you want us to do, and I can assure you we have heard. It's a question of what to do next, how to express our support as a result of this goodwill that has come from His Holiness' visit, and how to get some tangible results out of this thing.

    But as I said last time, I have a different point of view from His Holiness' and from yours in reference to your talks with China.

    We are sitting here, and Falun Gong is here and will speak next, and we're talking about human rights abuses in China. Everybody knows about the human rights abuses in China. The Chinese system of government that exists today is giving rise to these human rights abuses because there is no democracy; there is a lack of democracy. We know what is happening in Hong Kong as they try to tighten that democracy and curtail things so they can stay in power.

    I am wondering why you would--you're a government-in-exile--want to ask for autonomy under a system that is already repressive. You're demanding autonomy. And I know what you've said about the Tibetan culture and everything, but that's not going to be a long-term solution, because you have a repressive regime there. What steps would you and your government take so you would be different from that repressive regime or that repressive system that today exists in what we call China?

    I was there when the WTO negotiations were going on with China, and I will tell you quite bluntly, at that time, when I was the trade critic and we were looking at China's accession into WTO, the human rights record was put under the carpet. Tibet was swept under the carpet, including by Canada. I can tell you because I was there, and I never once heard anybody even talk about whether we should let China get into WTO with this thing. Everybody was very anxious to get China into the WTO.

    Have you given thought to this factor, that if you are going to negotiate for autonomy, you would be another repressive regime that would again not allow Tibetans the freedom you are seeking and you'd be back again to square one? Has that thought gone into the process?

º  +-(1640)  

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: This has been the subject of a constant debate among the Tibetan diaspora, and even the Tibetan parliament-in-exile left the decision up to the Dalai Lama, basically. I think it has something to do also with the Buddhist philosophy: we believe in impermanence. Things change all the time; things don't remain the same. And the Dalai Lama has a very strong belief that China is going through a very great transformation. It is going to change; sooner or later it has to change for China proper.

    Within the context of China today his immediate concern is the disappearance of Tibet's unique culture and religion. He feels that perhaps through a genuine dialogue with no preconditions we would come to some sort of understanding where the Chinese central government would respect Tibet's uniqueness and let the Tibetans run their own internal affairs.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: But their record with Hong Kong is not that way, as you see what's happening now.

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: Absolutely. But as I said in my opening statement, there are two schools of thought in China today. One believes that China should negotiate with the Dalai Lama while he is alive, because post-Dalai Lama is a very big question mark. It is unknown. There are, of course, the hard-liners, who are simply saying, “Let's wait until the Dalai Lama dies. Tibet will die with him.” The choice is up to us, and if we wish to save Tibet, perhaps the time to do something is while the Dalai Lama is alive, because then you may see that this problem can be resolved peacefully. Otherwise, it will be another conflict area in the world that is out of control.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Although I'm asking these questions, I do understand that it's a Tibetan problem, and His Holiness and yourselves are the best judges as to how you want to be a community in China? I leave that respectfully to the Tibetans. It's a matter of how we can be of assistance. I've heard from you, and I think we have received this message very strongly. I wish I had received it at the time the WTO session was held, because, believe me, I would have raised it.

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: Thank you.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Obhrai.

    Ms. McDonough.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I have two quick questions. Can you interpret for us what it means that a two-year reprieve was given in the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, which expires in December 2004? Is that granted on the basis of some pretence of a possible appeal or review? What does the tradition of granting a reprieve like that actually mean in terms of any possibility of reversal?

    The question I was really raising earlier was, beyond proposing the value of a dialogue with corporations that are doing business, what do you want the Canadian people and the Canadian government to ask those corporations to do? Are you saying there should be an index of human rights compliance, and in the instance where it's clear that in a given industry, a given geographic area, or whatever, there are human rights violations, it would be indicated that corporations refuse to participate? I'm just trying to get beyond the dialogue to some concrete specifics of what you hope we would be pushing for.

º  +-(1645)  

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    Mr. Geshe Lobsang Tenpa (Interpretation): The main reason is there was no hard evidence that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was directly involved in planting the bomb in April 2000. Many of his students, including me, were arrested and questioned, beaten up, and still they could not find hard evidence. So they gave it a two-year reprieve.

    There is a strong possibility, if hard evidence still hasn't been found.... But we don't know at this point if come December he's going to be executed.

    Constantly there is questioning and beatings. A lot of his students have been arrested and beaten in trying to get some hard evidence. Our hope is that with enough pressure from different governments in the world, the Chinese authorities will either extend his sentencing or let him go in December.

    Lobsang Dhondup was executed. He was asked, and he screamed that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was not involved. The Chinese authorities need that hard evidence, but they are determined that they are going to get rid of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. They're still working on getting somebody to say yes, he was involved, but to this day they have not found anyone.

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    Mr. Jared Genser: I'm going to respond quickly to the second part of your question, about specific things that one could ask corporations to do. There are a couple of things that pop into my mind, at least.

    One is to ensure that all companies that do business in China do so in compliance with basic human rights, labour rights, and environmental rights standards that have been developed by the United Nations, by the International Labour Organization, and others. That is one commitment that I think companies need to make and shareholders need to hold companies accountable for.

    The second thing is that I would think we need to also be pushing corporations to raise individual human rights concerns once they have invested in China because they will have audiences for those concerns, and to lay out the case to the Chinese government, as I was describing a bit earlier, that ultimately, their business is going to be affected, and they will have a harder time investing in China if the Chinese don't shape up their act. Because ultimately, consumers are going to be looking at the products and where they were made, and if people remain deeply concerned about the oppressive nature of this system and how systematic and widespread these abuses are, then ultimately people are going to change their buying habits. I think that's an argument that the Chinese may not buy yet, but I would hope that over time, as things move forward, assuming that companies continue to invest broadly around the world, it's an argument that will actually bear itself out in terms of economic evidence. And I know there are some NGOs in the United States that are trying to begin to measure those kinds of arguments in the case of Burma, with other companies.

    That is as tangible as I can get here.

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    The Chair: Does anyone else wish to ask questions? Does anybody wish to have a final sum-up, anybody on behalf of this delegation that's come up with great difficulty today--the two of you from the U.S.?

º  +-(1650)  

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: I would just like to make the final appeal that through this committee I think we need to send a very strong message, a recommendation to the department of foreign affairs and the Prime Minister's office that Canada should take an active role. We shouldn't be standing by and watching it, doing nothing.

    When it comes to human rights and all of these issues, we cannot have double standards. Where there is a principle, sometimes we have to pay a price. I think I've seen very clearly this time around that Canadian people are willing to pay a price if there is a price to pay.

    I don't really believe that taking a position, the request we have made to the Canadian Parliament, is going to hurt Canadian business interests in China. The request is very simple.

    I think this time around, through this committee, we should send--I don't know how you do it--a recommendation or something to the government. That needs to happen.

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    Mr. Jared Genser: I would just emphasize one final point from the NGO community, which is that what I am most concerned about is the self-censorship of governments.

    Everybody knows that the Chinese are very sensitive on human rights issues. As a result, many governments have taken the approach that they decide not to raise these issues because they know they're going to try to shut down the conversation. In my view, that kind of self-censorship is really the most dangerous in the long run.

    I also want to say, of course, that I'm very grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today. I appreciate your having this hearing.

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    The Chair: Have you already given thanks to Canada Immigration for letting our distinguished visitor come in today? Has that already been done or should we note it in the record?

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: Yes, actually. Did he have any problem going through immigration?

    A voice: No problem.

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    Mr. Thubten Samdup: No problem at all.

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    The Chair: Thank you to Mr. Genser for coming too, and to all of you. I think this has been most helpful.

    Unfortunately, we have a vote in the House very soon. I think it's at 5:30.

    There is a motion, if the colleagues here will agree with it, that we could perhaps pass in your presence, which is:

That the Subcommittee, pursuant to Evidence presented on May 5 and May 12, 2004 in relation to its study on human rights issues in China, call upon the Government of China to give immediate attention to the question of human rights abuses in the Tibet Region and elsewhere in China

    It's not much, but it's a small gesture, if that's acceptable to....

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Are you calling upon the government of China to give immediate attention?

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    The Chair: Would you like to amend it?

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: I want the Government of Canada to give immediate attention.

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    The Chair: All right, the Government of Canada.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: We want the Government of Canada to urge China....

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    The Chair: It would be “that the Government of Canada urge China...”. Is that acceptable, in front of our distinguished witnesses?

    An hon. member: Urge China to do what?

º  +-(1655)  

+-

    The Chair: To give attention to the question of human rights abuses in the Tibet region and elsewhere in China.

    Can we leave it up to our wonderful clerk to clarify any...?

    Yes.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: Mr. Chairman, in view of the fact that we don't have quorum, I'm wondering if we can agree to bring that forward in full committee.

+-

    The Chair: We don't have to note that, apparently. We probably won't have another meeting. We don't have to note that we don't have a quorum, unless somebody wants to.

    A voice: You just did.

+-

    Ms. Alexa McDonough: By agreement, I never raised the question.

+-

    Ms. Colleen Beaumier: I didn't hear it.

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    The Chair: The clerk can polish the language to incorporate all of the suggestions.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: That sounds good. Call the question.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: Thank you again to our witnesses.

    I'll ask the witnesses from Falun Dafa to please replace them at the table.

    If the witnesses would like to stay and listen, we'd be happy if you would.

    We have the president of Falun Dafa Canada, Xun Li; Grace Wollensak, the national coordinator; and Lucy Zhou, the national coordinator.

    We very much appreciate your coming on short notice. We know you don't have carefully prepared statements. Whoever would like to speak, you have about 10 or 12 minutes. Is that all right?

    Thank you.

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    Mr. Xun Li (President, Falun Dafa Association of Canada): My name is Xun Li, and I'm the president of Falun Dafa Association of Canada.

    First, I want to sincerely thank the chair and the committee for the honour of having the opportunity to speak on the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Because of the time limit, we won't be able to address the scale, the scope, and the intensity of the persecution in full. We hope the committee will consider having at least one full session with the other group as well. We would very much appreciate that.

    Second, I would also like the committee to consider highlighting the Falun Gong in the motion, if possible.

    To start our presentation I will address the issue that Madame raised. On the number of people who are incarcerated in forced labour camps, it was mentioned that 230,000 people are in jail. According to the Australian Broadcast Corporation, at least half of them are Falun Gong practitioners, as you mentioned.

    The number is very conservative. Other organizations, like Harry Wu's, estimate that up to two million people are in the forced labour camps. So the number of Falun Gong practitioners in labour camps ranges from 115,000 up to one million. You can tell the scope of persecution in the 30 provinces of the entire nation.

    There's another question. Why do people perceive that China is a potential market? The gentleman mentioned profit. Forced labour is introduced into this profit because it's cheap labour, and there's no cost for the product. A large number of practitioners are doing this, like Shenli Lin, who was freed from China; he was making soccer balls for Adidas.

    In China they even empty the forced labour camps and let the people who really should be there go, to put the Falun Gong in. The same is true for the jails. They remove the real criminals from the jails and put Falun Gong practitioners in. Why are they persecuting Falun Gong?

    In 1993 they endorsed this practice and honoured it with the highest prestige award, achievement award, because of its physical and mental benefits. The government estimates for health, the reduction in costs...they could save billions of dollars in China, let alone the moral improvement for the nation.

    About three years ago I met with the Canadian ambassador, Gerry Skinner, in Iceland three times. I talked to him at length about the Falun Gong issue. I asked him why they persecuted Falun Gong. He gave a very inspiring answer. He said regimes like China want to control. They want authority. But the Falun Gong people have moral authority.

    Falun Gong people are really good. They practise and are living examples of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. The more they do, the more corruption, violence, and bad stuff will be mirrored--hatred will be mirrored. So there's a concern about seeing bad things mirrored in China the more people practise.

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    It's a shame. The country should promote these values, which are the ancient Chinese values of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. But for their very authority, they started the campaign of eradicating Falun Gong. The campaign is a nation-wide campaign. The policy can be summarized in three phrases: one, defame their reputation; two, bankrupt them financially; and three, eliminate them physically.

    Regarding defamation of their reputation, we have seen unprecedented sustained propaganda, not only in China but also in Canada. With the isolation of information, people do not know what really happened in China in the first months of the persecution, from July to August. In one of the major newspapers, the People's Daily, there are over 330 articles slandering Falun Gong. The TV is running 24 hours a day to slander Falun Gong.

    I don't have time to address brainwashing. We can address in detail how they are using brainwashing to force practitioners to give up their practice. At the same time, they ask practitioners to thank the individuals who torture them.

    The second one I want to highlight is on bankrupting them financially. Not only do they detain them and torture them, but they also fine each individual, using the fine to further fuel the persecution. ProfessorZhang was released with the help of the Canadian authorities and the Honourable Irwin Cotler. He was fined 10,000 yuan in China, before he was allowed to come out.

    The last is eliminating them physically. People probably know that at least 950 practitioners are confirmed to have been tortured to death, but the real number, because of information isolation and the blockade, is estimated by insiders to be in the thousands.

    The last point I want to highlight—and I hope Grace and Lucy can add to what I have presented in general—is that Canadians are affected. Chris Xu, a Canadian resident, is a refugee protector in Canada. His mother was sent to a mental hospital and was tortured to death in the mental hospital. Also, there is Zhang Tianxiao, a practitioner from Vancouver whose relatives were tortured to death. Actually, there are 30 Canadian practitioners whose family members are still incarcerated in prison in China. There are over 100 Canadian practitioners whose family members have been tortured or persecuted in one way or the other.

    I would like to leave a few minutes for either Grace or Lucy. Will that be okay?

    Thank you very much.

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak (National Coordinator, Falun Dafa Association of Canada): I would like to spend a minute to add a few facts.

    Despite condemnation and disapproval from people around the world, persecution has been escalating and has intensified. For example, in the past three months, as we sent the letter to the committee, we had 41 cases of death reported in April, 25 cases in March, and over 30 cases in February. Basically, there is no sign that they are going to stop the brutality against Falun Gong practitioners.

    Actually, it's not limited to human rights violations. It has escalated to a crimes against humanity and a genocide campaign against Falun Gong. Their aim is to wipe out Falun Gong. When the persecution started, they were aiming to eliminate Falun Gong within three months, but they are still doing it.

    Despite the brutality on Falun Gong practitioners, nobody has retaliated or used violence. We have only been using peaceful means to appeal to the world, to raise awareness, and to let people know what's going on so they can give us a hand to help stop this persecution against innocent people.

    This is a systematic campaign happening in China. It uses national machines and national resources, so basically, large sums of money have been spent on this campaign. This is not beneficial to anybody. It is harmful not only because it is destroying the morality of the people by encouraging people to persecute other human beings, but in the meantime, they have spent a large sum of money, which is also harmful to the nation and to society.

    Those are the points I would like to add.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Ms. Zhou.

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    Ms. Lucy Zhou (National Coordinator, Falun Dafa Association of Canada): Thank you. I'll just be very brief.

    I just want to say that the people who are being tortured or tortured to death include the elderly, retired people, 70- to 80-year-old people, and also including young babies, less than one year old, tortured to death together with the mother. Their only crime is that they want to practise Falun Gong and be a good person, following truth, compassion, and forbearance.

    In China, in incarceration, hundreds of thousands of practitioners face torture. We have summarized in this book 100 ways of torture, including putting people into cages, stripping people, throwing people into the water while they are in the cage, people being tortured to death using all kinds of methods, a severe beating, people hanging in the most exhaustive positions for days or weeks until they are completely exhausted physically, and then they have been exposed to hate propaganda. They are being forced to renounce and to recant, and then they're just subject to brainwashing, and when these people are being brainwashed--and Professor Zhang had this kind of experience--they have been put onto national television to thank their torturers for having given them new life. They have to regret walking down an evil path previously. It's extreme humiliation to whoever is experiencing it, but this is happening every day, and the torture and torture deaths are also happening every day.

    I just want to highlight that, and also people, the whole society, are being impacted.

    Right before the crackdown, a Falun Gong control office, called the 6/10 office.... It's named 6/10 office because it was established on June 10, 1999. Its sole mandate is to persecute and to eliminate Falun Gong, under the direct order of the then President Jiang Zemin. This actually is a terrorist organization with absolute power beyond judicial procedure, beyond administration. This organization exists at the state level, at the provincial level, at the city level, at every corner in society.

    So basically the persecution of Falun Gong is completely lawless. People who are being incarcerated either go through a show trial or are sent to labour camps without any judicial procedure and the lawyers are ordered not to defend Falun Gong practitioners.

    They have passed laws to persecute, and those laws have been applied retroactively. Before 1999 it was legal, it was absolutely okay to practise, but then they passed a regulation and traced it back to a few years before.

    There is so much that it's very hard to explain within just a few minutes, but we are very thankful that the committee has given us this opportunity.

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    The Chair: Thank you for coming.

    Before going to questions, you can get what you've said, by our clerks, on the Internet--at least the English version--at www.parl.gc.ca/srid-e.

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    The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Stephen Knowles): Yes, Mr. Chairman, and of course, in my correspondence you'll see that in my signature block. I'll be glad to communicate it to them later.

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    The Chair: And you can forward that to anybody?

    Can you forward your transcript?

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    The Clerk: Yes, I can, Mr. Chairman. Once it's up on the Internet, of course, it can go anywhere.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Obhrai.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I have been on this committee for almost six years now, and I am well aware of the persecution of the Falun Gong in China. I met the Chinese ambassador a couple of years ago and he gave me a book, Chinese propaganda, on what the Falun Gong is. I looked at that book. It amazes me that a country like China would think you are some kind of threat to them. You're not a political organization. I'm absolutely baffled, to be very honest with you, as to why the government of China feels it has to persecute you. This is something a citizen is doing.

    I suppose you have a good presence in Hong Kong, where you are not persecuted, and also in Taiwan. Is that correct?

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: Yes.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: So tell me why. You're not a piece of land that they can conquer and get something out of. You're not a political organization. You're just a plain religious/social organization. So why would you be a threat to China? I just don't understand. I've not been able to get a satisfactory answer from the Chinese ambassador and the government of China as to why. It just baffles me. Is there a clash of wills here? Does the Chinese government think you are a threat to its power?

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    The Chair: Do all three want to answer?

    Grace.

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: I will answer. Actually, it's not the Chinese government that wants to persecute the Falun Gong. It's an individual vendetta by the former president, Jiang Zemin. He only worries about his power. He doesn't care about the people's interests. We are not against the Chinese government. We're against the persecution. That has been our goal so far. There are seven members in that politburo, and six of them are against the persecution.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Now you have a new government. Jiang Zemin is gone. So why would the new president still persecute you?

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: With regard to persecution, as far as we know, the new leaders have never said anything against the Falun Gong. But even though Jiang Zemin has gone, he's still in control. The international community could definitely help in having the new leaders shift the direction of China when it comes to the persecution of the Falun Gong. That would be very helpful.

    With regard to the question of why they're persecuting us, any person with normal rationality couldn't understand that. We couldn't understand either. We thought they had a misunderstanding. I remember the first time I met with Ms. Colleen Beaumier, her immediate reaction was that this was just like the Christians were persecuted. Nobody could explain why the Christians were persecuted for so many years for no reason. They were demonized. They were saying bad things about them. The other day I was at the parliament, and Tony, a guy who has been there for years, said it's because the night is afraid of daylight. He said that the daylight brings brightness to the people, and the darkness is not happy about that. That's the explanation I could give.

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    The Chair: Mr. Li.

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    Mr. Xun Li:

    Yes, I'll continue.

    It's indeed a personal vendetta by the former Chinese President Jiang, who orchestrated this persecution. He's still holding the military power. He's president of the military, so he's still controlling the country from the back seat.

    There's a question I address briefly regarding the question I asked through Gerry Skinner, who is the Canadian ambassador in Iceland: who will persecute goodness? The answer is pretty much that only evil will do that.

    Truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance--those are ancient Chinese values. They are also universal values. We have received so many congratulations from members of Parliament of all our governments. This is a universal value that should be promoted in Canada, and it will bear fruit, as said by Minister Sheila Copps.

    Not only Falun Gong, as we said, but many groups are prosecuted when they become large. They want to control you regardless of whether you're good or not. It's the regime that wants authority, but Falun Gong has moral authority. They are good people.

    This is why Jiang Zemin was named as a human rights scoundrel by Amnesty International and was named for five consecutive years as an enemy of the press by the CPG, a committee to protect journalists. He has been sued in many countries world-wide—at least 10 countries—for crimes against humanity and for genocide.

    Thank you.

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    Ms. Lucy Zhou: I just want to present a few facts.

    Before 1999, the high leadership of the government body sent a delegation to investigate Falun Gong, led by one of the former high leaders. His conclusion in that investigation was that Falun Gong had 100 benefits without one harm—basically, that it's good.

    Later, Jiang became very paranoid about his powers. He was always thinking others were looking at his power. When more and more people started to practise Falun Gong, they started looking into it, even though they found there was no problem. Jiang Zemin sent spies to different practise sites of Falun Gong.

    Later Jiang Zemin wrote personal letters talking about how these people are very organized. He could not understand that goodness comes from people's hearts. When people become assimilated to the values of truth, compassion, and forbearance, then people behave well. He perceived that there must be overseas, anti-China forces, or else his political opponents must be behind Falun Gong. We actually have his letter to all members of the Communist Party. He said, “We have to crack down”.

    Basically, we want to explain we're not against the Chinese government. We're against the persecution. We want to bring justice to the situation. He gave lots of orders: if you beat a Falun Gong practitioner to death, it's counted as suicide—all kinds of very cruel means.

    Basically we're making efforts. We want to bring the former leader of China, Jiang Zemin, to justice for all he has done, but we're not against the Chinese government.

    One example is last December when Premier Wen Jiabao came we had three banners. The first said “We welcome the premier's visit”, the second said “Falun Dafa is good”, and the third said “Bring Jiang Zemin to justice”.

    Our attitude is not political. We're not against the government. We want the persecution to stop.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much. We have about five minutes left, and I believe Ms. McDonough would like to ask a question.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: This question may seem quite naive--and I'm looking forward to reading the document you've left with us. Is it the case, from your point of view, that the reason for the persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong is that it is viewed by the Communist government in China as an ideology--and I don't know whether it's the same question--as a religious faith in what is intended to be a religion-free regime? Is it really persecution against a religious institution, or is it that the result of the practise of Falun Gong is a freedom of thought that challenges authority and therefore is considered dangerous for the perpetuation of Communism?

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: I think that is part of the reason. What you said is true; it can be a valid part of the reason. For example, Communism is very much like atheism. For many years, they didn't allow any religion to exist in China. Even now it's open, but the existing religious organizations or groups are more or less state controlled. All the underground religious groups, for example, the Catholics, the Christians, and the Tibetan groups, have suffered persecution because the state wants to control people's minds.

    That is a very big part of the reason for that. The other reason is Falun Gong was very popular. It started in 1992. Within seven years it mushroomed from 17 million to 100 million people. That was an estimate by the government. So they were nervous about nothing, just because the people liked to do this.

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    Mr. Xun Li: The propagation of Falun Gong is unprecedented in any of Chinese history, in the religious aspects of the Taoist or Buddhist schools. No single group can propagate so quickly in seven years because of the physical and mental benefits....

    As Grace mentioned, Chinese Communism is atheism. There is a song that says, we do not believe in God and we don't believe someone from Heaven can save us. So there is particular mention in the international song of the Communists, and atheism is part of it.

    Another aspect of this is probably very simple. China is not a democratic country. Elected officials do not run the government. It is a dictatorship. Jong has the power to do whatever he wants. Of course, there is resistance from all levels to stop this persecution, but because of sustained hate propaganda, and the people do not really know the truth.... Our major effort is to let people know the truth so that persecution can be stopped.

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    Ms. Lucy Zhou: We do have beliefs. We believe in the value of truth, compassion, forbearance, but we are not an institutionalized religion or anything. All we do is exercise and meditate to improve our health. At the same time we follow the principles of truth, compassion, and forbearance. Basically, be good at anything and everything we do. That is what it is all about.

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: I have a brief supplementary question. How many practitioners of Falun Gong would you estimate there are in Canada? Do you have any estimated count of...?

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    Mr. Xun Li: Because we do not have membership, practitioners who want to come can come. We don't charge any fee. For all the activities, seminars, or conferences, we never charge a fee. And we don't accept donations. We don't maintain a membership. From the number of people who frequently join our activities, we estimate from 600 up to 2,000 practitioners, in that range. Sometimes a conference can have up to or over 2,000 practitioners and sometimes a conference will have more like 700 or 800.

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    The Chair: There have been allegations that the government of China within Canada has done things to hurt Falun Gong. Do you want to say anything about that?

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: The Chinese embassies and consulates in different cities have constantly sent defaming material, what we consider hate propaganda, to aid the persecution. They defame Falun Gong practitioners in Canada. I think many parliamentarians have received it. We have seen these materials in libraries, in schools, even in the provincial parliament in Toronto. They have run rallies to incite hate, they have exhibitions in the Chinese embassy and the consulate, and they have been sending letters to whoever openly supports Falun Gong. They don't miss anybody; they send them to student unions, school teachers, and all levels of government officials--city, province, and federal. They have been abusing their diplomatic privilege and are doing something harmful to Canadian society by inciting hate against a legal and legitimate group like the Falun Gong group.

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    Mr. Xun Li: I want to highlight two incidents. One is that Fairchild TV broadcast a segment on a CCTV, Chinese Central TV, program slandering Falun Gong, saying practitioners kill their parents after they practice Falun Gong. The CBSC, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, rendered a decision saying the attacks on Falun Gong are biased attacks. They asked Fairchild to broadcast at prime time, twice, their decision because they violated various ethical codes of journalism.

    The second incident I want to highlight is about the practitioner Joel Chipkar, who was slandered by the deputy consul general of China in Toronto as a member of a “sinister cult” in the Toronto Star, the mainstream media. Joel took the case to the Ontario Superior Court and the court rendered a decision in early February saying this is libel to Falun Gong practitioners.

    Thank you.

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    The Chair: This is unfortunately the end, but would you like your statement appended to our record today, Mr. Li?

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    Mr. Xun Li: We have a few other copies of the document from the United Nations. If the committee would consider this, I would appreciate it and hand them over.

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    The Chair: I think we have to append all of that material, which is quite thick. Would that be feasible, or would it take a huge amount of time, resources, and tax money?

    It would have to be translated too.

    We'd love to do it, but it would have to be--

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: How about only one from the United Nations rapporteur's report?

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    The Chair: How long is that?

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    Ms. Grace Wollensak: It's over 100 pages. It's the collection from the years 2000 to 2003.

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    The Chair: Is it in French as well?

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    Ms. Alexa McDonough: That particular copy may only be in English, but if it is the special rapporteur report, it's available in French from the Internet. Unless it's some very unusual situation, I assume that's the case.

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    The Chair: Can that be done?

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    The Clerk: I suppose, Mr. Chairman, the link could be provided.

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    The Chair: That's a perfect solution.

    Thank you very much for coming on short notice. We really appreciate it.

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    Mr. Xun Li: Thank you all very much. We deeply appreciate it.

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    The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.

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