Falun Dafa's concerns of discrimination in the face of Chinese embassy pressure continue as papers are filed over a Christmas parade ban at Auckland's High Court Nov. 19.
International lawyer and counsel to CCHR (Citizens Commission On Human Rights in New Zealand), Evgeny Orlov, filed the claim on behalf of the Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand against Auckland's Farmers Santa Parade Trust for breaches of the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act.
The Santa Parade Trust continues its ban on Falun Dafa and its Divine Land Marching Band in New Zealand's largest Christmas parade, citing the group is political.
Mr. Orlov said the Trust is mistaken.
“The Falun Gong is not a political organisation, it is a spiritual, religious movement. The only thing that makes them political is that their members are being tortured in China, and killed, and their body organs sold worldwide. That's not their politics, it's the politics of the Chinese government,” he said.
“Let's say that a Buddhist Tibetan monk can participate in the parade, but just because Tibet is being invaded by China doesn't mean he can't. The essence is that he's a Buddhist Tibetan monk—the same as them—their essence is that they're Falun Gong, which is a spiritual, qigong-style movement.” Mr. Orlov said.
Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand president, John Yu, said the group have applied to enter the Santa parade since 2001 and have been denied every year.
“I think the fundamental reason behind the case is the pressure and propaganda from Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “Falun Gong is following truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, and it is good for everyone in the world. People will benefit from learning the principles.”
He said the recent milk powder scandal and other incidents have alerted New Zealanders to the nature of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We can see the Chinese Communist Party is very anti-humanity; people in China don’t have freedom of expression and freedom of belief.”
“We hope they [the Trust] can make the right decision.”
Falun Dafa practitioner and band member Kerry Gore participated in the Wellington Christmas parade last weekend and said the public response was “very encouraging”.
“No there is no political content. We want to display the beauty and dignity of Falun Dafa and traditional Chinese culture—that is what this is all about—it has nothing whatsoever to do with politics, not at all.”
Michael Barnett, chairman of the Santa Parade Board and Auckland's Chamber of Commerce chief executive told TV3, "There is no way that I will allow any politically-motivated group to capture a children's Christmas parade in Auckland." The Trust intends to oppose the court proceedings.
Longtime proponent of Falun Dafa's inclusion into the Santa parade event, Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey, has suggested political and trade motivations with China are behind the ban.
“It is a political objection, they [the Trust] might call it something else, but I'm in no doubt about it.
From the correspondence in the past I've had with Michael Barnett is that he sees the Falun Dafa organisation as political and some threat to China and trade relationships between China and New Zealand. And I think he gets all his hats mixed up. He gets his Santa hat mixed up with his Chamber of Commerce hat.”
The Auckland City Council contributes approximately $130,000 annually to the Parade Trust.
Mr. Orlov suggests the Santa Parade Trust are putting human rights below their own political motives towards China.
“The reason, the secret reason is that they don't want to offend China—that was stated in emails,” he said.An initial hearing will be held next week and the claimants are hoping for a result before the Santa Parade on Sunday 30 November.