Calgary Herald (Canada) : Calgary Falun Gong mark ban's third year

Falun Gong practitioner Cheng Nan Li of Vancouver, centre, was one of the participants in a commemorative rally on Stephen Avenue Walk Friday morning. The colourful group wanted to draw attention to the oppression of Falun Gong by the Chinese government.

The three-year anniversary of the Chinese government's ban of the Falun Gong spiritual group was marked by about 20 practitioners in front of Bankers Hall on Friday.

Members from Alberta and B.C. displayed exercise and meditative techniques followed by a short greeting by Calgary West MP Rob Anders.

"This is not really a celebration, we call it a commemorative rally," said organiser Ian Oliver. "It's truly tragic what's happened in China and we want to raise awareness that there's been three years of this."

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual and meditative movement based on principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. It is a practice that had been taught in private for thousands of years until 1992 when it was made public.

The practice was banned three months after a silent protest by 10,000 followers took place on April 25, 1999, around the Beijing compound where Chinese President Jiang Zemin lives.

Falun Gong supporters abroad say at least 100,000 [practitioners] have been detained, while 20,000 have been sent to forced labour camps, and they claim at least 400 have died in custody. China denies killing anyone, but says some have committed suicide or died by refusing food or medicine.

"I think this is the single greatest human rights tragedy in the world right now," said Anders, a Canadian Alliance MP. "Absolute brutality and torture is being perpetrated on the practitioners in China and you are not going to find a more peaceful example of resistance. They remind me of the Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi."

Many practitioners claim almost miraculous health benefits.

Yunhong Zhao, an older woman who emigrated from Dalian in Liaoning province to Vancouver a year ago, says she had a roster of serious illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart problems, that began to disappear after she started practising Falun Gong in 1997.

When the ban was announced, she tried writing letters to Jiang and other members of the Chinese government to "clarify the truth" until she was reported by a neighbour and arrested. [...]

Joshua Gan, 31, said he arrived in Calgary in March largely to escape persecution for his [practising] the [suppressed] movement.

Gan says a friend was sent to a labour camp for six months because of his [practising] Falun Gong.

"The human rights situation now is the worst in history," Gan said. "And the government is fabricating facts to deceive the people of China, who don't know the truth."{48D5D4AB-21E8-4132-BA73-CDD98EE0A108}

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