The Province


Court case and CSIS documents suggest China pressured Vancouver to suppress Falun Gong protests


The City of Vancouver will again face Chinese dissident group Falun Gong in court over a controvers­ial protest bylaw, in a case that raises questions about China’s influence in B.C. municipal politics, according to some espionage experts.

On Monday, Falun Gong asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge to declare Vancouver’s bylaw unconstitu­tional for the second time in four years. The spiritual group wants to renew the round-theclock vigil it started in 2001 in front of the Chinese consulate on Granville Street, just south of 16th Avenue. The embarrassi­ng optics of the practition­ers’ silent protest — mostly elderly women meditating in front of banners proclaimin­g brutal persecutio­n and bloody torture in China — irked Beijing and reportedly became an irritant in relations with Vancouver and Victoria.

China has banned Falun Gong and calls it one of the “five poisons” that endanger the state. The regime’s foreign service targets Falun Gong in overt and covert operations, according to intelligen­ce and court documents obtained by The Province.

But the Granville case is not just about a foreign spiritual group’s freedom to protest under the laws that protect Canadians. On one level, this case seems to highlight China’s growing economic might and potential impacts on Canadian government­s. And if you believe experts like Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former Asia-Pacific bureau chief for the Canadian Security Intelligen­ce Service, this could be about China trying to infiltrate B.C. politics, while CSIS spies monitor local politician­s for any signs of “foreign interferen­ce.”

Furthermor­e, it’s possible, several intelligen­ce experts including Juneau-Katsuya said, that the Granville case is the type of scenario that Canada’s ex-top spy, Richard Fadden, infamously referred to in 2010. Juneau-Katsuya told The Province it is a certainty that Fadden was monitoring Vancouver politician­s in connection to the Falun Gong protest and the spy agency will continue to watch local councillor­s under new director Michel Coulombe.

Former NPA mayor Sam Sullivan ordered Falun Gong to dismantle their protest hut on Granville in 2006, and the case went to court. Falun Gong argued that China had pressured Vancouver to enforce its bylaw in efforts to suppress the protest. A B.C. Supreme Court judge in 2009 supported the city. But in 2010 Vancouver Island lawyer Clive Ansley — who practised for years in China and speaks Mandarin — won an appeal for Falun Gong. The judge ordered the city to rewrite its bylaw on constituti­onal grounds, giving council six months to draft rules that would allow for public protest huts on city streets. The judge said it was clear China used “its considerab­le resources” to oppose Falun Gong, but the group’s lawyers did not prove the city was politicall­y or economical­ly pressured to enforce its bylaw by China.

Questions about China’s influence didn’t end there, though. City staff admitted in a 2011 council meeting that the Chinese consulate was consulted as a “stakeholde­r” in the new bylaw’s drafting, in confidenti­al discussion­s. Ansley recalls how he reacted to that stunning revelation.

“I told Mayor (Gregor) Robertson this is about the degree of freedom Canadian citizens are to be allowed protesting in the streets, and the Chinese government is not a stakeholde­r in that,” Ansley said. “I said it is absolutely indefensib­le and disgracefu­l.”

Fast forward to September 2014. Vancouver’s rewritten protest bylaw — with limits on the times and durations the Falun Gong protest hut can stand in front of the Chinese Consulate — is “no better than the old one,” according to Ansley.

“Vancouver city council has tried to do an end run and evade the clear intent of the Court of Appeal,” Ansley said in an interview. “They have just imposed totally arbitrary conditions that they can’t defend.”

“We think they deliberate­ly disallowed our continued vigil,” said Vancouver Falun Gong practition­er Sue Zhang, 68. “We do think that the city is being either pressured by the Chinese consulate, or is trying to please the Chinese regime.”

Ansley said that for health reasons he is not arguing the current case, and Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward represente­d Falun Gong in court on Monday.

Although Ansley says he strongly believes in Falun Gong’s evidence of Chinese influence on Vancouver council, it is not clear if Ward will renew those arguments or present new evidence. In the first court battle with Vancouver, Falun Gong’s legal team presented a timeline of Sullivan’s meeting with Chinese consulate staff and trips to China, and alleged that his position on the Falun Gong protest was related to his visits with regime officials. Ansley’s co-counsel, Joseph Arvay, spoke of the relationsh­ip between Sullivan — who is reportedly a fluent Mandarin speaker — and the former Chinese Consular General, Yang Qiang. In crossexami­nation, Sullivan reportedly said he and his parents were guests for a private dinner at Yang’s residence in which the protest was discussed. Sullivan has maintained he was not politicall­y influenced.

But an affidavit from Chen Yonglin — a diplomat who in 2005 defected from the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, Australia — said it would be impossible that any Vancouver mayor would not be pressured by China in this case.

Chinese embassies around the world were aware of Falun Gong’s seven-year vigil in front of the consulate on Granville, and it was a “major embarrassm­ent to the Chinese government,” Chen’s 2008 sworn statement says. Chen’s affidavit includes documents outlining overt and covert operations that he was involved in against Falun Gong in Sydney. Such actions are common around the world, wherever the Chinese government confronts Falun Gong and the “five poisons,” Chen stated. He added that in performing his duties he learned the most effective way “to develop influence over Australian political leaders is to provide them with all-expensespa­id travel to China, and with lavish entertainm­ent while they are there. This method is common to all Chinese foreign missions in the West.”

“It would be absolutely impossible that in (the Granville Falun Gong protest case) the mayor of the city in which the consulate general and the vigil are located would receive no pressure from the consulate general,” Chen concluded.

Sullivan, now an MLA in the B.C. Liberal government, and Robertson would not be interviewe­d for this story, and chose not to answer a specific set of questions emailed to each by The Province, including questions about Fadden’s controvers­ial claims about municipal politician­s in B.C. Questions also covered the potential for Chinese influence in B.C. politics, whether Sullivan and Robertson had been offered or accepted paid trips on their travels in China and whether CSIS is known to have monitored or questioned Vancouver mayors in connection to the Falun Gong protest case.

According to CSIS documents obtained by The Province in a freedom of informatio­n request, Fadden accused China of foreign interferen­ce and spying in connection with B.C. in a March 2010 speech. Fadden said Chinese authoritie­s were organizing demonstrat­ions against the “five poisons,” including Falun Gong, and apparently recruiting agents through the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-funded school located on campuses across Canada, including BCIT.

In a June 2010 CBC interview, Fadden clarified his comments about Canadian politician­s under suspicion, saying: “We can monitor anyone. In the case of these individual­s ... they haven’t really hidden their associatio­n, but what surprised us is that it’s been so extensive over the years, and we’re now seeing in a couple of cases indication­s that they are, in fact, shifting their public policies as a reflection of that involvemen­t with that particular country.”

The mystery as to what politician­s Fadden was referring to has never been revealed, but a number of B.C. politician­s, including then-Premier Gordon Campbell, bristled at Fadden’s unproven allegation­s.

In response to the backlash, in heavily redacted “Top Secret” documents obtained by The Province, Fadden explained his controvers­ial claims to Canada’s former public safety minister, Vic Toews.

In the documents, Fadden says ‘foreign interferen­ce’ is an effort to influence the political process and public policy in another country, and to control and monitor diaspora communitie­s abroad. In Canada ethnic communitie­s are manipulate­d to gain informatio­n on dissidents and solicit community support, Fadden writes, which can be used to promote targeted politician­s or electoral candidates.

“Politician­s are targeted to solicit support for policies and positions that favour the interests of the foreign state … interferen­ce and influence involving politician­s and public servants are, in some cases, conducted subtly and involve a long period of cultivatio­n,” Fadden writes.

CSIS and the Public Safety Ministry would not answer questions for this story.

The Vancouver Chinese consulate was also called for comment, but did not respond.

 ?? ARLEN REDEKOP/PNG ?? Members of Falun Gong stand outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday while lawyers for the religious group argued to have a city bylaw declared unconstitu­tional.
ARLEN REDEKOP/PNG Members of Falun Gong stand outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday while lawyers for the religious group argued to have a city bylaw declared unconstitu­tional.
 ?? RIC ERNST/PNG ?? Falun Gong protesters try to maintain a 24-7 presence in front of the consulate in an effort to bring attention to their claims about the Chinese government.
RIC ERNST/PNG Falun Gong protesters try to maintain a 24-7 presence in front of the consulate in an effort to bring attention to their claims about the Chinese government.

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