Guelph Mercury (Canada): Religious freedom still not complete here

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February 28, 2003 Friday Final Edition
By: Tyler Senyshyn

Dear Editor - On Feb. 11, I attended an information session at the University of Guelph on Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), a [..] spiritual practice.

I was expecting a light evening where I would learn a few gentle exercises and perhaps receive some instruction on meditation, but what I got instead was insight into persecution unprecedented since the holocaust.

It was my impression that the Chinese government was coming around in terms of human rights. I've been hearing next to nothing in the media on the terrible conditions in China, and they were beginning to seem less and less like the red menace and more and more like our friendly Communist allies to the east.

I mean, trade with them is expanding, and we're even giving them the next Olympics. Their human rights policies have to have improved, right?

Wrong. Falun Gong, a peaceful philosophy based primarily on health-improving exercises and the basic principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance was originally accepted and even encouraged by the Chinese government. But since 1999, around the same time that Falun Dafa practitioners started outnumbering Communist Party members, the Chinese government has decided that Falun Dafa is now such [a popular] practice that it must be eradicated, no matter how high the death toll.

Chinese Falun Gong practitioners now face the worst kind of persecution. Practicing in China is treated as a crime of the highest degree resulting in arrest and torture, (often resulting in death.) But this is not a problem that simply ends at the Chinese border. Globalization has ensured that the long arm of the Chinese government affects the freedom of Canadian citizens as well.

During the information session, I noticed that while there were many in attendance of Southeast Asian descent, none took on the role of presenting. Afterwards, one of the Falun Gong practitioners explained to me that the reason for this was that it is common practice for Chinese government informants to attend Falun Gong events with the intent of identifying practitioners who have relatives living in China.

They will persecute relatives of those practitioners who dare to practice Falun Gong, even outside of China.

I am extremely proud to be Canadian, and I have always believed that along with my citizenship came the unquestionable right to exercise my religious freedom [Falun Gong is not a religion. Please visit www.falundafa.org to learn more about the nature of Falun Gong]. I was disgusted to find that there are still thousands of Canadian citizens who are not free to practice their religion of choice for fear that their families will be tortured and killed.

I am disgusted that Canada promises a long list of freedoms and rights, yet when the most basic of those rights is attacked, we offer trade and open arms to the attacker.

Tyler Senyshyn
Guelph

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