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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Band files human rights complaint against fest

By BETH JOHNSTON, SUN MEDIA

OTTAWA SUN: Members of the Tian Guo marching band will complain to the Ontario Human Rights Commission if they don't get to play at the Tulipfest.

"This is a principle issue. We're Canadian citizens. I thought we were a multicultural society," Lucy Zhou, whose 12-year-old son plays in the band, said yesterday.

Band members say they weren't allowed to play at the Canadian Tulip Festival because they are members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement banned in China by the repressive Communist regime.

They were invited to play O Canada and The Maple Leaf Forever at the festival's opening ceremonies Friday, then told they couldn't play because organizers feared the group planned to protest against the Chinese government.

"They came from a protest on Parliament Hill and they came decked out in Falun Gong or Falun Dafa regalia," organizer Doug Little said. "That's not who we thought was registered."

WANT APOLOGY

The group believes the Chinese embassy influenced festival organizers because they practise Falun Gong.

Zhou blames a "public misconception" about the group and its purpose for the cancellation of the performance. They want a public apology and to be allowed to play at Dow's Lake next Wednesday and on May 18.

"It's outrageous for this guy to say our appearance is an insult to the festival or to the Chinese embassy," she said. "It's almost like the appearance of the Jews was an insult to the Nazis."

Coun. Clive Doucet said any group has a right to protest on public property, but the National Capital Commission owns Major's Hill Park where the festival is held, which muddies the issue.

"This is a democratic country, absolutely they should have the right to protest on publicly owned land," he said. "But this is a controlled event. It's a different kettle of fish."

PEACEFUL FIGHT

Doucet has accepted an invitation to speak during the festival.

"It's their call what kind of politics they want to hear," he said.

Zhou said the group is trying to handle the dispute using their principles -- truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance.

"We're not trying to pick a fight with them," she said, adding festival organizers won't return phone calls from the group.

"If all these groups have to go away to please a dictatorship, it is a dangerous thing for this society."

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