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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Why the government shouldn’t allow the CNOOC takeover: a Falun Gong perspective

Activists level serious allegations against the Chinese state-owned company

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey on Thursday, October 18, 2012 

MacLeans - Yesterday, when I asked readers to direct my reporting on the Hill, someone asked me to tell a story about one of the hottest issues of the past few months.

I didn’t think I’d get a chance to report on that, since I’m sticking to parliamentary committees, for the most part, during this crowdsourcing experiment. But then, lo and behold, an email popped into my inbox announcing a press conference this morning. Former Liberal and independent MP David Kilgour, a human-rights activist and long-time supporter of the Falun Gong, was appearing with Lucy Zhou, the national coordinator of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada. They were there to call on the federal government to block state-owned CNOOC’s takeover bid of Nexen. I checked out the press conference this morning.

(By now, you might have seen some of the reporting that came out of that presser: both iPolitics’ Derek Abma and Sun Media’s Daniel Proussalidis have already filed stories that detail what was presented.)

Zhou presented journalists with 14 pages worth of documents detailing alleged abuses committed by a CNOOC subsidiary in Tianjin, Bohai Oil Corporation, against employees who practiced Falun Gong. The allegations are sweeping, and if you’ve followed Falun Gong protests over the years, the language will sound familiar. It’s unlike anything we’d encounter in Canada.

The documents allude to “brainwashing centres” where some employees were sent; crimes against humanity; mental and economic persecution; forced labour camps; and ransacking, confiscation and kidnapping.

The Falun Dafa allege that in 2005, a 43-year-old Falun Gong practitioner named Wang Yanying was locked up simply for accessing the internet. Later that year, when her contract was up for renewal, she was allegedly told to renounce Falun Gong or be fired. Then, when she was pregnant, she was allegedly arrested—illegally—and sent to a mental hospital where she “was forced to take medication and injected with harmful drugs for ‘psychiatric treatment.’” After that, she was allegedly tortured at a forced labour camp. That’s where “as many as twelve convicts struck her head with electric batons all at once.”

That’s heavy stuff. And documents handed out to journalists chronicled more than a dozen other stories, each similarly disturbing. It’s hard to report that material verbatim, because we’re so removed from it all. But there was Zhou, at the podium, claiming some of the people allegedly persecuted were friends of Falun Gong practitioners in Canada. Would they make this stuff up, or exaggerate it, because they simply don’t like the Chinese government?

It’s hard to know, sitting here on Parliament Hill, where we’re a world away from the answers to those questions.

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