Diplomat’s wife says she smuggled embassy note that shows campaign to thwart CRTC application
A Chinese diplomat’s wife who defected to Canada says she has proof that top Chinese officials tried to thwart a Falun Gong-affiliated TV network from being broadcast on Canadian television.
Jiyan Zhang says she smuggled a hand-written internal report out of the embassy when she fled on March 5. She sought refugee status shortly afterward and announced her defection last week at a press conference on Parliament Hill.
Ms. Zhang said she feared she would be thrown into jail or executed in China based on her Falun Gong beliefs.
The leaked document appears to be written on official Chinese Embassy letterhead and is titled “Investigations and Negotiations on New Tang Dynasty Television’s attempt to enter the Canadian cable television broadcast network.” There are handwritten notes signed by several of the highest-ranked officials at the embassy, including Chinese Ambassador Shumin Lu.
“I came across it by chance. I saw it, took it and made a copy of it,” Ms. Zhang, 48, said yesterday through a translator. “When I defected, I brought it with me.”
She would not give further details to explain how she got a hold of the document. Ms. Zhang also refused to comment on whether or not there are any more reports she plans to reveal in the future. Calls to the Chinese Embassy were not returned yesterday.
“Today, I just hope to show that the Chinese embassy was doing bad things,” Ms. Zhang said. “I wanted to reveal their lies.”
New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) is a New York-based, Chinese-language broadcaster with an anti-communist and pro-Falun Gong stance. The network airs news programs in Mandarin Chinese, as well as Cantonese and English. In 2005, NTDTV filed an application to the CRTC seeking permission to broadcast in Canada. Their application was approved, but television service provider Rogers Cable has yet to add NTDTV to its programming.
Falun Gong is described by practitioners as a peaceable belief system that combines exercise and meditation. To the Chinese government, it is a dangerous cult and was made illegal in 1999.
Falun Gong members across Canada have always claimed that Chinese officials are deliberately trying to stop NTDTV from being aired because of its coverage of the country’s human rights abuses and its criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party.
The report is dated March 17, 2005, about one month after NTDTV filed its application to the CRTC, and is written by an officer in the embassy, Pengshan Chen.
In response to Mr. Chen’s report, Huikang Huang, second in command at the Chinese embassy, responds on March 18: “…it is still possible for us to knock down New Tang Dynasty TV’s attempt to enter the cable television network. We should reinforce the strength of our work.” Mr. Huang suggests rallying Chinese-Canadians and overseas Chinese students to write letters opposing NTDTV’s application. In addition, he makes this request: “Can you please, first of all, send some materials against ‘Falun Gong’ to relevant parties, institutions and people?”
Ms. Zhang said she first learned about Falun Gong in 1995 when she was living at the Chinese Embassy in France. Ms. Zhang came to Canada in 2003, with her husband, who worked as an accountant at the embassy. She saw Ottawa Falun Gong practitioners demonstrating on Parliament Hill, got involved, and distributed flyers for the group, when she says she realized members of the Chinese embassy were monitoring her activities. She quickly stopped any public displays with Falun Gong, but continued to talk about the practice “in private” with embassy members.
Recently, Ms. Zhang felt that embassy officials had learned she was a practitioner and were monitoring her every move. When her husband’s term at the embassy was not renewed this year, she said she knew something was wrong.
Ms. Zhang said she is worried about her family’s safety. Her adult son remains here in Canada with her, but she has not spoken to her husband since her defection.
“I used to have a very happy family, I was married for over 20 years. My husband and I had good feelings toward each other. If it was not for the persecution of Falun Gong there was no point for me to stay,” she said, denying the Chinese embassy’s claims that she is simply an illegal migrant posing as a refugee so she can stay in Canada. “If the persecution stops, I am very willing to go back and join and my husband. It is a very sad situation for me.”
In January, NTDTV’s travelling Chinese New Year show came to the National Arts Centre and featured a dance routine in which a young woman practising Falun Gong is attacked by actors dressed as police officers wearing black suits. They pull her to the ground and pretend to kick her, leaving her dead on the stage.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued a strongly worded statement in response, denouncing the show as propaganda. In a written statement, the embassy called NTDTV a “propaganda machine” for Falun Gong and said the performance was intended to “spread rumours, sabotage China’s relations with relevant countries and to engage in anti-China activities.”
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