Victory over diplomat in libel case hailed as precedent-setting

TORONTO (CP) – Coming off a victory in a libel lawsuit against a Chinese diplomat, local practitioners of Falun Gong will head to the Ontario legislature this week to demand that Pan Xinchun pay up and then be expelled from Canada.

Joel Chipkar said Saturday that last week’s Ontario Superior Court decision means it is time for Canadians to firmly dismiss the Chinese government’s claim that the Falun Gong movement is a threat.

“Right here in Ontario, not to mention Canada, the Chinese consulate officials have pressured our members of provincial parliament, they’ve sent them hate letters about Falun Gong, they’ve asked them not to support their own constituents,” said Chipkar.

“Right now in the Ontario legislative building there is hate propaganda put there by the Chinese consulate as reference material for our members of parliament and we want that removed.”

New Democratic Party member Marilyn Churley said she was unaware of any such material in the legislature library, but she would look into it.

“If it is there, I think that’s a problem,” Churley said Saturday. “The library is not there for propaganda on either side of any issue. It’s there for information and I see no problem with having information about all of it, but to actually have propaganda from any once side of an issue is just not acceptable.”

Falun Gong practitioners, who follow the 1992 teachings of a Chinese man, Li Hongzi, use meditation and gentle exercises to enhance a sense of well-being.

The practice has spread to millions of people in countries around the world including Canada, although the largest group of adherents remains in China.

The Chinese government, however, has branded Falun Gong – also known as Falun Dafa – as a dangerous cult that threatens the country’s security.

No one represented the Chinese diplomat in court on Tuesday when Justice Harvey Spiegel ruled that Chipkar, a Toronto realtor and Falun Gong practioner, was defamed when Pan called him a member of a “sinister cult” designed to “instigate hatred.”

Pan has been ordered to pay Chipkar $1,000, plus $10,000 in legal costs.

Chinese officials did return requests for comment Saturday.

The libel case came out of an exchange of letters in the Toronto Star during last spring’s SARS crisis.

In his letter, Chipkar had written that Canada “continues to avoid publicly condemning China for its irresponsibility, its corruption and its blatant disregard for basic human standards.”

In the response, which appeared in the paper the next day, Pan said: “While the world is resolutely combating SARS, Chipkar and Falun Gong busy themselves taking advantage of the SARS crisis and politicizing it by confounding it with so-called human rights and trade. Their hidden purpose is to instigate hatred and confrontations between China and Canada, which can only expose their true nature as a sinister cult.”

As Pan chose not to defend the case, the allegations became accepted as admissions by the court.

Since Pan was not acting in an official capacity at the time, he could not be granted diplomatic immunity, Spiegel ruled.

“Visiting officials should not be free here to attack Canadians on Canadian soil,” said Chipkar. “This is not China, this is Canada.”

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