On February 3, 2004, the Ontario Superior Court began proceedings for the libel lawsuit filed by Toronto Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Joel Chipkar against the Deputy Consul General of China in Toronto, Mr. Pan Xinchun. Defendant Pan Xinchun was convicted of libel and ordered to compensate for losses he caused to the plaintiff.
This is the first time where a Falun Gong practitioner has brought and won a lawsuit against a Chinese diplomat for persecuting Falun Gong outside of China. This is also the first court case where a Chinese diplomat was sued for slander and spreading hatred against Falun Gong.
As Mr. Chipkar and his wife stepped out of the courtroom, the plaintiff's lawyer Mr. Peter Downard said, "Today the good guys won."
Pan Xinchun Tried in Default
Judge Mr. Harvey Spiegel spent 45 minutes reading documents delivered by Mr. Peter Downard, the plaintiff's lawyer. After the trial began, the judge listened to Mr. Downard laying out background information on the case, and the court also heard evidence of how Pan had evaded services of the claim.
When answering the judge's questions, Mr. Downard said that he believes Pan is afraid to take the witness stand. Over the course of nearly five years of persecution against Falun Gong, the Chinese government has used overseas consulates to instigate hatred and spread slander about Falun Gong. What these consular officials have done exceeded their normal function and constitutes libel. Pan made another mistake by ignoring the court proceedings, and refusing to accept court documents or to appear in court.
After refusing to acknowledge three attempts of service, Pan forfeited the right to defend himself. He was not present during the court proceedings. Judge Harvey Spiegel granted the judgment in absence of the defendant, who failed to defend the action. Judge Harvey Spiegel awarded Joel Chipkar CA$1,000 in damages and CA$10,000 for legal costs.
During an interview after the trial, Mr. Chipkar pointed out that he requested an award of only $1,000 because he wished to make clear that his concern was one of principle and not money. Mr. Downard said, "This ruling sends a clear message that the promotion of China's persecution of Falun Gong in Canada will be condemned by the Canadian courts. It is vitally important that our system of justice responds to the wrongful promotion of hatred in our country."
Instigators of Hatred Do Not Have Immunity
Regarding immunity protection, plaintiff's lawyer Mr. Downard stated that in international law, diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity and consular officers enjoy consular immunity. But consular officers have a much more limited immunity, which only protects them in carrying out consular functions. The defendant's libel of the plaintiff is acting outside of consular functions. Existing evidence is sufficient to exclude Pan from the immunity protection. In this case, the actions of the defendant were clearly in violation of international law.
In particular, the defendant's libel of the plaintiff was in violation of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Canada acceded on May 19, 1976. China signed and ratified the ICCPR on October 5, 1998.
Although the Chinese government has exerted considerable pressure on Canada's government, requesting the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to step in and stop the lawsuit, the Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the media that it would not involve itself in this litigation, as the lawsuit is to be handled through the courts.
In the past five years, overseas Chinese consulates have been an active part of the persecution of Falun Gong. They instigated the local Chinese community and foreign governments to oppose Falun Gong in total disregard of the law. The verdict in this case has been a breakthrough in showing that they cannot continue to hide under the umbrella of diplomatic immunity.
Warning for Overseas Chinese Officials
According to reports, since the case was filed, the Chinese Consulate in Toronto has not signed any of the letters they sent to Canadian government officials. The Chinese Consulate personnel are apparently afraid of being held accountable for their actions.
Canadian Falun Gong practitioners pointed out that Jiang's overseas accomplices are attempting to help escalate the persecution in Mainland China. They take advantage of overseas Chinese media to spread slander and instigate hatred, and they distribute anti-Falun Gong materials as consular officials everywhere they go. They hire thugs to threaten and harass Falun Gong practitioners to instigate hatred against Falun Gong among the overseas Chinese people and foreign government officials. They make use of slander spread overseas and bring it back to Mainland China to help justify and support the persecution in China.
The verdict of the Pan Xinchun case serves as a clear warning for all Chinese consular officials: those who help Jiang's regime to carry out the persecution against Falun Gong will be held accountable, and it's only a matter of time.
Only a Beginning
After the lawsuit was filed, Canadian Falun Gong practitioners paid close attention to the progress. On the day of the trial, nearly one hundred Falun Gong practitioners went to court and waited for the verdict. When they heard the outcome, the practitioners said that the success of this lawsuit is only a beginning.
The plaintiff, Falun Gong practitioner Joel Chipkar, said, "In China, my parents-in-law were brutally tortured because they refused to accept the lies by Jiang's regime. They lost everything. The hatred has spread to Canada and has affected my family. As a Canadian, I must protect my family from harm."
It was learned that Chipkar's parents-in-law in China were forced into homelessness because they practice Falun Gong. Chipkar said the success of this lawsuit has great significance not only for himself but also for every Falun Gong practitioner in China and abroad.
On April 25, 2003, shortly after the SARS-related death toll in Toronto reached 16, The Toronto Star published a letter from Mr. Joel Chipkar, who expressed his concern over the SARS cover-up that lead to the spread of SARS in Toronto.
For the past 4 years Mr. Chipkar, a local businessman and Falun Gong spokesperson, has also written letters and appealed to the Chinese consulate in Toronto for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China, where his mother and father-in-law faced brutal torture. They now reside in exile in Toronto.
On May 1, 2003, a rebuttal letter by Mr. Pan Xinchun appeared in the same newspaper, denying responsibility for the cover-up of SARS and labelled Mr. Chipkar as being a member of a "sinister cult."
In August 2003, Mr. Chipkar filed a libel lawsuit against Mr. Pan in the Ontario Superior Court. Mr. Chipkar says the Chinese Deputy Consul General in Toronto Pan Xinchun's written attack against him and his beliefs of Falun Gong published in The Toronto Star is strong evidence of Chinese Consulates in Canada spreading hatred and inciting Canadians against Falun Gong during the past several years.
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