residents, County. Alex Munter insisted yesterday.
Munter was responding to Albert Tang, a representative of the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Chinese Organizations, who appeared at the transportation and transit committee trying to prevent renewal of a special event bylaw exemption for the Falun Gong group.
For two years, the group has enjoyed the exemption to post signs across from the Chinese embassy on St. Patrick St. to protest China's persecution of Falun Gong.
Followers of Falun Gong, a spiritual and physical discipline that promotes truth, compassion and
forbearance, say hundreds of practitioners have been jailed and killed in China since 1999.
Tang challenged the exemption, arguing that the protesters pose a safety risk. He claimed visitors to the Chinese embassy are embarrassed by flyers handed out by protesters and to avoid them are forced to cross the road at another location, compromising their safety.
"It is clear what the real issue is here," Munter told Tang. "What you want is the prohibition of this group at the location," Munter said.
"Our bylaws allow people to stand in front of governments and express themselves in a peaceful way so long as they have a special events permit."
"No one ever died of embarrassment," Munter said, emphasizing that the issue is freedom of speech, not safety.
The exemption was unanimously approved, but the debate continued outside, with Tang calling Munter a "second-rate" politician.
"I have been the target of demonstrations," Munter countered, "and I would never do what you did today ... what you suggest is a violation of the principle of freedom of statement. Case closed."
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