Falun Gong Defies Float Ban in New Zealand Town

A Falun Gong float, dancers and musicians defied a council ban and efforts to stop them taking part in Wellington’s Chinese New Year Festival parade.

Thousands of people two or three deep watched the parade in Courtenay Place yesterday. It finished at Frank Kitts Park.

A van driven by security guards hired by the city council was parked in front of a Falun Gong float to stop it taking part.

The float, decorated to look like a small boat and carrying six of the spiritual group’s members, was driven around the back of the van, leaving surprised security guards in its wake.

Police were also involved but the float and a large group of Falun Gong supporters finally got through at the tail of the parade, defying a council ban imposed on the basis that the group is deemed “political”.

The Falun Gong has been banned in China and their participation in the parade presented diplomatic problems for the council, which co-sponsored the parade with the Chinese embassy.

Council events manager John Dawson said the council did not want political groups taking part in community events it funded.

The problem this year was compounded by the Falun Gong float as the driver had not been to the safety briefing.

Mr Dawson said the council called the police in an attempt to stop it.

Falun Gong organiser Joan Zhang said police tried to seize the float, and threatened to arrest about 90 musicians and dancers who surrounded it.

Police declined to comment but an officer at the scene said they let it through as it was a road policing issue — “we do not get political”.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast appeared unperturbed by the group’s actions.

“We cannot stop them anyway,” she said. “They will be using a public road closed off for an event and will not be obstructing anyone.”

Falun Gong is a religious movement whose adherents practise meditation and exercises.

After 20 years of rapid growth of the movement, in 1999 the Chinese Government moved to suppress it, calling it an “evil cult”.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday March 7, 2007.
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