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Chinese take protest to street in Newtown

Aug 1st, 2014 | By | Category: Diversity, News, Top Picture

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POLICE and advertising complaints have been laid in a dispute between a Wellington Chinese newspaper and Falun Gong practitioners.

Falun Gong protesters outside a Newtown shop have prompted the owner Kevin Zeng to lay a police complaint against the group.

The group want a public apology from Mr Zheng for an open letter published earlier this year which they claim printed incorrect and discriminating information.

Falun Gong members made complaints to the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority, however the authority announced last week the complaint had not been upheld.

The protesters say they will appeal the decision.

 Followers of Falun Gong, a worldwide spiritual practice, have been protesting the letter for more than a month outside Rainbow Bridge, a convenience goods store in Newtown and also the listed address for Home Voice newspaper.

Newtown community constable Brittany Allan says police have received a complaint from the owner of the store, but the protestors are within their rights and have been peaceful and compliant.

Mr Zheng, who is also deputy chair of the Wellington Association for Promoting Peaceful Reunification of China, published the letter addressed to the Chinese community of Wellington on April 4 on behalf of the association.

Mr Zheng says the association is an independent organisation that advocates for the reunification of China and Taiwan and aims to promote change by influencing the Chinese community in Wellington.

The letter accuses Falun Gong, and the closely related Shen Yun performing arts show of “deception” and “lies”.

It was released four days prior to the Shen Yun performing arts show held in Wellington at the St James Theatre and urged the public not to attend.

The letter states: “These so called shows are simply not theatrical performances, but political tools of Falun Gong cult to amass wealth and engage in cult activities and anti China propaganda. It not only taints and distorts Chinese culture but also deceives, fools and poisons the audience.”

“The purpose of the show is not to display real traditional Chinese culture, but to smear Chinese image and damage China and New Zealand’s relationship.”

The letter also accuses Falun Gong of cult activities and social disruption.

Falun Gong practitioner and protestor Yan Jiang says Mr Zheng’s claims are false and he is using the name of freedom of speech to discriminate other’s freedom of belief.

“The article defames both Falun Gong and Shen Yun,” she says.

“It is the persecution of Falun Gong that has pushed practitioners to come out and stop the persecution.”

A pamphlet handed out by the protesters describes Falun Gong as a peaceful practice of the mind, body and spirit where by practitioners cultivate themselves according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.

They say Shen Yun Performing Arts is not politically motivated but is a world class arts show which aims to revive and celebrate 5000 years of traditional Chinese culture.

“We local Falun Gong practitioners believe the open letter published in Home Voice is unjust, unfair and completely lacking in principle.

“We therefore seek a public apology from the Home Voice publisher.”

Kevin Zheng says he has been on the receiving end of verbal attacks and has been harassed by protestors.

At this stage he says a public apology will not be made to Falun Gong because he has done nothing wrong and Home Voice newspaper is within its legal rights.

Dr Michael Radich, a Victoria University lecturer in Art History, Classics and Religious Studies says, the issue echoes Falun Gong’s treatment in China.

“The criticism was in the form of an open letter from a community organisation, and was not presented as journalistic coverage of the facts of the matter,” Dr Radich says.

“It could therefore perhaps be argued that the newspaper was merely providing a space for the voicing of a legitimate private opinion, as part of open public debate.”

However he says it is concerning that Falun Gong have been criticised in this manner, and the language of the letter echoes characterizations of Falun gong by the Chinese Government since the practice was declared illegal in 1999.

Westerner and Falun Gong practitioner, Margo MacVicar says Home Voice is spreading Chinese Communist Party propaganda in an attempt to turn the public against Falun Gong.

“It’s blatant slander and defamation and its happening worldwide,” she says.

Protestor Winny Ling says in China Falun Gong practitioners are hated because of the propaganda spread by the Chinese Communist Party.

She is protesting the letters criticism because she does not want that influence to spread in New Zealand.

“Many people will have read the letter, we don’t want people to hate Falun Gong in New Zealand because of it,” Ms Ling says.

 

 

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