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Former Canadian Minister of Justice: Sun Qian’s Case Was “Criminalization of Innocence”

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Minghui, Ottawa, Canada

The Honorable Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C., O.Q., former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, was interviewed regarding Beijing’s recent eight-year sentence of Canadian Falun Gong practitioner Sun Qian. He called the verdict a classic case of criminalization of innocence and a fundamental assault on China’s own rule of law, as well as a fundamental violation of international treaties.

As Sun Qian’s legal counsel, Cotler has been following the case very closely since her arrest in 2017. He took up her case at the request of Sun and her family and has been working with her lawyer in Beijing.

Criminalization of Innocence

Cotler told the reporter, “Her case is a classic case of the criminalization of innocence, of a woman, in this case, a Falun Gong practitioner. Not for anything she has done, but for who she is, the bearer of the values of Truth, Compassion and Tolerance, which reflect and represent the values of the Falun Gong community.

“That’s why she was arrested arbitrarily and illegally. That’s why she was tortured in detention, including sustained mental and physical torture. That’s why she was deprived of any right to counsel or right to a fair trial. That’s why her lawyers were harassed, intimidated, and themselves persecuted. And that’s why her fundamental freedoms, freedoms to conscience and belief, freedoms of expression, association, assembly have all been criminalized in this case.

“This is to conclude on this point, a fundamental assault on China’s own rule of law and a fundamental violation of international treaties to which China is a state party. We’re not asking them to respect Canadian law.”

In February 2017, more than 20 policemen broke into Sun’s residence in China and arrested her and four other people with her. Sun has been tortured and abused multiple times. She was initially detained for eight months and denied any rights. She was handcuffed to a steel chair, pepper-sprayed, and subjected to brainwashing sessions.

“Now you fast forward that over time, that kind of sustained torture in solitary confinement, not knowing how much she was also being threatened with harm to her family and others. And I’m not surprised that in the end, they coerced a false confession from her, which is yet another violation of Chinese law in the most cruel and inhumane way. And she would not have been the only one to have, in effect, given a false confession, under conditions of torture.”

Cotler said, “She bravely resisted that until I suspect it was no longer possible under such cruel, inhumane and torturous treatment mentally and physically, and acute brainwashing over time…” Cotler went on to say that if brainwashing wasn’t used, the Chinese authorities wouldn’t have been able to get a false confession from Sun, “It was only the sustained torture over time that coerced a false confession. That’s why in 99% of these cases, the person is found guilty. In effect, it’s a preordained conviction and punishment.”

Recounting the process of finding a lawyer, Cotler said, “She had 11 lawyers before who kept being harassed, intimidated, and arrested themselves until finally she could not have the lawyer of her choice. And so you had a kind of concerted combination of a lawyer representing the state rather than her.

“More than 11 lawyers and who sought to represent her, I give them full credit for their courage. They were harassed, intimidated, some of them, arrested, disbarred and so on.”

Sun Is Still a Canadian Citizen

Though the Chinese Communist Party claims that Sun renounced her Canadian citizenship, Cotler holds that she should still be considered a Canadian citizen. “There was no free consenting renunciation of citizenship. It was part of a false and coerced confession. The Canadian government should still see her as a Canadian citizen, should call for her immediate release and for the Chinese authorities to cease and desist from all forms of torture and abuse, and for the Chinese authorities, as I said, to respect their own law and international treaties to which they are state party. For example, both China and Canada are state parties to the international convention on civil and political rights.

“China has made these obligations and undertaken these obligations not only to the international community, but to member states of those conventions. That is to say to Canada, and Canada, therefore, has not only a right, but indeed an obligation with respect to these treaties, in terms of upholding them with respect of these treaties to call upon China to cease and desist of their violations of the treaty to release her, and to put an end to the torture, abuse, and false and illegal detention and unjust imprisonment.”

Distinguish Between the Chinese Authorities and the Chinese People

“I always distinguish between the Chinese authorities and the Chinese people who are innocent targets of persecution and prosecution, in particular, for example, the Falun Gong…

“What pains me so much is that the Chinese people are the heirs of a great civilization, of a great civilization that I and so many others have enjoyed. Regrettably, the present regime in China is betraying the values of its own great civilization and culture, even of its own great principles of law by turning the rule of law on its head in every respect, and by breaching the very international treaties that it has undertaken to uphold.”

Cotler called on the Chinese authorities to celebrate the great culture, values, and civilization they’ve inherited, to stop all these arrests and persecution, and to become a responsible member of the international community.

Horrific Collective Actions and Massive Repression

Cotler said Sun’s case fell into the pattern of the persecution of Falun Gong. There were references in some articles that this was tied to the Meng Wanzhou case (the CFO of Huawei who is currently being held in Canada), and that this is a retaliation. He said, “While the timing may be relevant in terms of the timing of the conviction, we should not ignore the otherwise unrelated aspects of the 10 illegal violations, most of which I identified in her persecution and prosecution, which have everything to do with the fact that she is a Falun Gong practitioner in prison for her beliefs, and nothing at all to do with the Meng Wanzhou extradition case.”

“We are seeing horrific collective actions and massive repression being undertaken by the Chinese authorities,” Cotler stressed. He gave examples of the imposing of the national security legislation on the people of Hong Kong which violated the British/Chinese treaty and imprisonment of Uyghurs in concentration camps.

“We Now Are a Collective Community”

Cotler stated that parliamentarians of different countries in the world are coming together, “We formed three weeks ago the inter-parliamentary alliance on China. More than 15 parliaments. It’s mushrooming, really, to a community of parliaments and democracies that are calling on China to respect these values, and if not, to be held accountable for this. We trust that the governments of these parliaments will come together, as well as free and independent community of governments of democracies joining the parliamentarians, joining civil societies all over the world, joining the brave people in China who are putting not only their livelihood, but indeed their lives on the line to protect these values.

“The governments have been afraid. It’s because China is an economic superpower. It is very difficult for a country like Canada to stand up to China alone. It is very difficult for a country like Australia to stand up at to the Chinese government alone… But if the community of democracies and beyond come together and say, ‘That’s it. That’s enough. You’re not only going to be leveraging each one of us alone. We now are a collective community. And we can move our supplies collectively elsewhere. And we can alter the supply chain. And we can reframe our trade relationship.’

“I think then things will begin to change. Maybe that will be the beginning of the movement towards the proper normalization of relations between the international community and China, between the community of democracies and China.”

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