China asks Ottawa to reject claimant
OTTAWA — China wants Canada to refuse asylum to a diplomat’s wife who fears her adherence to the FL_G movement will spell her doom in her country.
“Canada has not a very good reputation,” Huang Huikang, the deputy chief of mission of the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, said Friday. “I think the Canadian government will do what they should do.”
Jiyan Zhang applied for refugee status in Ottawa earlier this month, fearing a prison sentence and possibly death should she return to China.
“I sensed it was going to be dangerous for me,” she said Friday at a news conference on Parliament Hill organized by members of the FL_G movement.
Her asylum claim has touched a sensitive nerve in an already strained relationship between the two countries. Canada has often berated China for its record on human rights, while Beijing has accused Ottawa of providing haven for fugitives and criminals.
Ms. Zhang and her husband were both posted to Ottawa in 2004, she said. She started drawing suspicions from her colleagues at the embassy when she spoke out in favour of FL_G, she said Friday.
The movement, also known as Falun Dafa, combines traditional Chinese breathing practices with Taoist beliefs. Its practice is outlawed in China, where, according to human-rights critics, FL_G practitioners are jailed and tortured.
Ms. Zhang said Chinese embassy officials started following her around Ottawa and monitoring her moves as soon as she disclosed her spiritual beliefs. Then, earlier this year, the couple was recalled to China, she said.
But instead of handing back her diplomatic passport as she was ordered, Ms. Zhang sneaked out of the Chinese embassy, leaving behind her husband, who has since returned to China.
“I am quite afraid that something might happen to my husband,” she said.
Mr. Huikong denied Ms. Zhang was placed under surveillance. He also denied she had spoken to her colleagues about FL_G, characterizing her as an opportunistic migrant posing as a refugee.
“The purpose is the same as any illegal immigrant,” he said. “They wish to be rich but [are] using the ugly means.”
While the number of Chinese nationals seeking refugee status has been fluctuating between 1,000 and 2,800 over the past decade, the rate of acceptance of refugees in Canada has doubled since China outlawed FL_G in 1999.
Canada accepted 21 per cent of asylum seekers in 1998, compared to 49 per cent in 2006.
Ms. Zhang Friday alleged China is using its Ottawa embassy to spy on FL_G practitioners in Canada. A special unit of about 12 embassy officials is tasked with following and reporting on Chinese Canadians who adhere to the spiritual movement, she said.
Mr. Huikong vehemently denied those accusations and said China would be angry with Canada if it accepts Ms. Zhang’s claim.
“It’s not good practice,” he said.
Wife of Chinese diplomat in Ottawa defects
Updated Fri. Mar. 30 2007 11:25 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The wife of a Chinese diplomat working out of the Ottawa embassy has defected, believing her spiritual beliefs would make a return to her country dangerous.
Jiyan Zhang said Friday she is a practitioner of FL_G.
“I sensed it was going to be quite dangerous for me,” she told reporters on Parliament Hill.
FL_G is a discipline banned by China’s communist government and many practitioners claim they have been tortured because of their beliefs.
During Zhang’s press conference, protesters rallied outside supporting those who quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Zhang, whose 20-year-old son is also in Canada, defected earlier this month and claimed refugee status when her husband’s posting here was about to expire.
Now she’s concerned of what will happen to her husband in China.
“Something can happen to my husband because of me, because he’s in the hands of the regime,” she said.
But a senior Chinese diplomat dismissed her claim, and even questioned whether she was really a practitioner of FL_G.
“They know the best way to get refugee status is to claim they are FL_G practitioners,” Huang Huikang of the Chinese Embassy told CTV News.
Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said the decision whether to grant Zhang refugee status will be up to the refugee board.
“We hope to keep things … on an even keel as far as our discussions with China on these and other important matters,” he said.
The protest rally was heralded as a show of support for “the over 20 million people in China who have withdrawn from the Communist party and its related organizations.”
A press release issued by Quitting CCP Center (Canada) calls the Chinese government a blood-thirsty regime.
“As Chinese-Canadians, we have worried for years about China and the lives of our 1.3 billion people under control of this blood-thirsty regime. Now the Chinese are saying “No” to the tyrannical Chinese Communist regime,” says the release.
With a report by CTV’s Roger Smith in Ottawa
Wife of Chinese diplomat announces defection in Ottawa
Last Updated: Friday, March 30, 2007 | 5:00 PM ET
The wife of a Chinese diplomat in Ottawa said Friday she has defected to Canada to avoid being sent to back to China where she might be persecuted for her beliefs.
Jiyan Zhang said at a news conference in Ottawa that she is a follower of the FL_G movement. After telling friends at the Chinese consulate earlier this month that she is a FL_G practitioner, she said she renounced her Chinese citizenship.
Zhang said Communist leaders in China should stop persecuting members of FL_G.
The Foreign Affairs Department has yet to confirm her defection.
According to the Canadian Press, the last high-profile defection involving the Chinese embassy in Ottawa occurred in August 2005, when a Chinese hairdresser stationed in Ottawa left the embassy, taking his wife and son.
China’s Communist government has tried to suppress the FL_G movement, which followers describe as a spiritual discipline but not a religion.
Followers say FL_G can improve physical and mental health through special exercises and meditation. It has been banned by China’s communist government.