Australia: Practitioners Hold Anti-Torture Exhibition in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

On March 9, 2005, Falun Gong practitioners from Australia held an anti-torture exhibition and news conference in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. On that day, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and fifty Non-Governmental Organisations held a closed-door meeting to discuss human rights issues. Falun Gong practitioners hoped to utilise this opportunity to raise the awareness of the participating NGO officials and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They unfurled banners to request Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Alexander Downer to stop signing the monthly order preventing the display of Falun Gong banners in front of the Chinese Embassy.

Falun Gong spokesperson Mr. John Deller speaking at the news conference Falun Gong practitioners participating in the news conference Anti-torture exhibition in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra

According to Falun Gong spokesperson John Deller, the Falun Gong group started attending the human rights convention last year. They were invited this year, as well. However, when Falun Gong practitioners applied for permission to hold an anti-torture exhibition in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, they were told that the exhibition would bar them from participation in the convention. The Australian Falun Gong Association believes that Australia is a democratic country and the application to hold this activity in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is legal and legitimate. It is also appropriate to hold an anti-torture exhibition on the occasion of the human rights dialogue. This would help to call attention to the severe human rights violations against Falun Gong in China. At the same time, this would also express a request to the public and media that Foreign Minister Mr. Downer stop signing certificates every month, as he has done over the past three years, banning Falun Gong practitioners from holding peaceful appeals in front of the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

Deller said that practitioners have been seeking various means to try to talk with Mr. Downer about the issue, but have not received any response. Therefore, Falun Gong practitioners decided to publicise this issue and seek support from the media and the public. He stated that legal action might not be out of the question if the certificate issue is not resolved.

At around 5:00 pm on March 9, a member of an NGO came to view the anti-torture exhibition. He said that this kind of petition is very effective and should be frequently conducted. During this human rights convention, the Falun Gong issue was raised. He said to the practitioners, "You will eventually succeed."

Some other NGO representatives expressed to Falun Gong practitioners that Foreign Minister Downer is aware of the persecution suffered by Falun Gong practitioners in China, but it seems that trade and economic interests are more important to him.

On March 16, 2002, a day before Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan visited Australia, under pressure exerted by the Jiang Zemin regime, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer signed a certificate to restrict Falun Gong practitioners from conducting peaceful appeals in front of the Chinese Embassy. He also ordered federal police officers to remove banners with the words "stop the persecution", "the world needs truthfulness, compassion and tolerance" and practitioners' truth-clarifying poster boards that were set up on the street opposite the Chinese Embassy. The reason was that he felt the Falun Gong banners and practise music infringed upon the dignity of Chinese delegation and the Chinese Embassy.

Mr. Downer thus became the only person who has signed orders banning Falun Gong practitioners' appeals in a democratic country.

A practitioner said that she could not understand why a banner that read, "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance" would affect the dignity of the Chinese Embassy. She could not figure it out why the Foreign Minister would sign such a certificate. She said, "When a criminal kills a person and people say that he is a murderer, would this infringe upon his dignity? The Minister has a temporary privilege valid for only 30 days, but he has kept signing the certificates every month for three years in a row. Obviously, we have our reasons to question whether he has abused his power."

Another Falun Gong practitioner said that Foreign Minister Downer is restricting practitioners from confronting the representative of their persecutors. Falun Gong's fundamental principles are "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance", which uphold and promote people's senses of justice and conscience.

The practitioner said that some people might wonder if we are against the Australian government by protesting Downer's actions. I replied, "Absolutely not!" Falun Gong practitioners throughout the world have conducted all kinds of peaceful appeals calling for an end to the persecution. We have no interest in politics and political power. Anyone who violates human rights, no matter where they are and who they are, should be corrected.

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