Human Rights Tribunal in Canada Finds Chinese Association Discriminated against Falun Gong

$15,000 in damages awarded over revoked membership

New York–In a decision challenging the Communist Party’s efforts to extend the persecution of Falun Gong beyond China’s borders, the Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario ruled on April 27 that a local Chinese association had discriminated against an elderly Falun Gong practitioner when revoking her membership and using demeaning labels to refer to her faith.

“I conclude that the respondents breached the [Ontario Human Rights] Code and discriminated against the complainant on the basis of her creed,” wrote tribunal vice-chair Ms. Michelle Flaherty in the decision. “The Tribunal orders the corporate respondent to pay the complainant the sum of $15,000 for loss arising from the infringement of her rights.”

In 2001, the Ottawa Chinese Seniors Association revoked the membership of 78-year-old Canadian citizen Ms. Huang Daiming. At the time, several association officials indicated that the reason was because she practiced Falun Gong. When Ms. Huang tried to contact the officials to challenge her expulsion, they used derogatory terms to refer to Falun Gong, including the “evil cult” label that has become a centerpiece of Communist Party propaganda. The tribunal also found that the use of such a label in itself constitutes a violation.

“I find that this comment [“evil cult”] constitutes discrimination within the meaning of the Code,” wrote Flaherty in the decision. “The comment had the effect of demeaning the complainant and affronting her dignity on the basis of her creed. ”

Discrimination and hate incitement against Falun Gong practitioners has been a central tactic used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its efforts to wipe out the traditional Chinese discipline. Inside China, discrimination remains pervasive, including in employment and education. Outside China, Chinese businesses and prominent figures in overseas communities routinely come under direct or indirect pressure from the CCP to take action against Falun Gong practitioners.

In the Ontario case, in addition to the plaintiff’s membership revocation, other examples of the association engaging in demeaning behavior against Falun Gong came to light through the proceedings. In particular, at a Chinese New Year’s Celebration event in February 2002 anti-Falun Gong propaganda was on display. One witness also reported overhearing a representative of the Chinese consulate telling a member of the association to exclude Falun Gong practitioners from their activities, though this direct connection to the Chinese government could not be verified.

“This decision is not only a victory for Ms. Huang, it is an important step in challenging the Communist Party’s suppression of Falun Gong and the hate speech that has fueled violence and animosity against pracitioners for over a decade,” says Executive Director Levi Browde. “We hope this ruling can provide members of Chinese communities in Canada and elsewhere leverage to resist CCP pressures to discriminate against their Falun Gong compatriots.” 

In recent years, when victims of discrimination and vilification outside China have challenged it in legal proceedings, tribunals have repeatedly ruled that the treatment meted out indeed violated Falun Gong practitioners’ basic rights. In August 2010, The U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged that a Chinese restaurant in Flushing had acted inappropriately when refusing to serve Falun Gong practitioners in 2008 and required that the restaurant take various actions to prevent future discrimination (news). In February 2004, the Ontario Superior Court found that the Chinese Deputy Consul General in Toronto had committed libel when he called a Falun Gong practitioner an “evil cult” member in a local newspaper (news).

Since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party has carried out a widespread, brutal campaign of persecution to eradicate Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual and qigong practice, whose adherents in China still number in the tens of millions. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who practice Falun Gong remain in captivity, rendering them the single largest group of prisoners of conscience in China (article). The United Nations, Amnesty International, Chinese human rights lawyers, and Western media have documented Falun Gong torture and deaths at the hands of Chinese officials (reports). The campaign and its implementation are in violation of Chinese law and, contrary to common reporting, Falun Gong was not banned as an “evil cult.” (analysis).

The plaintiff and her attorney are  available for interview upon request. A copy of the tribunal’s ruling is also available.