On May 6, 2019 Falun Dafa practitioners invited Queensland candidates running for public office in Australia’s general election to an evening forum at Southport Community Centre on the Gold Coast.
A wide range of candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives who came were affiliated with different political parties and some were standing as independents.
They were each given the opportunity to see highlights from Falun Dafa’s 20-year history in the city through a selection of images from the Peaceful Journey of Falun Dafa Photo Exhibition hanging on the venue wall and also introduced in a folder by local practitioners.
The proceedings were conducted very much like a typical candidate forum, with time allocated for each speaker to introduce themselves, why they are running for election and what their policies are. If a speaker went off topic or took too long, practitioners would ring a bell to ask them to finish up their remarks.
Each speaker was then presented with a prepared question addressed to all candidates for them to respond to:
“Since the Chinese regime began persecuting Falun Dafa almost 20 years ago we have faced foreign influence from Beijing. When we organise, or even join a public event, we often hear feedback the regime’s diplomatic or Confucius Institute staff have warned elected representatives, venues and even festival organisers not to support Falun Dafa, otherwise it could damage relations with China,” the question read. “If you are elected on May 18, how will you resist foreign influence and help stand-up for community groups like ours?”
19-Year-Long Persecution Unanimously Opposed
The candidates unanimously opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) 19-year-long arbitrary detention, torture, organ harvesting and killing of Falun Dafa practitioners.
Australian Greens candidate for Fadden Scott Turner said he saw Falun Dafa practitioners counter China’s information blockade many times by showing Mainland Chinese tourists the beauty of Falun Dafa and the evilness of the CCP’s persecution of the peaceful practice in Brisbane’s China Town district.
“Falun Dafa people were always there with the banners and signs, and I thought that is a great way to circumvent the restrictions in China against the protests, you can actually reach your own Chinese people to let them know [the truth about the persecution],” Turner said.
He was also impressed by the good behavior of practitioners.
“Their protests were always so dignified and respectful, and they always did not leave any rubbish behind afterwards,” he said. “I thought there might have been the old Chinese proverb that it is the beautiful bird which gets caged, and an army can defeat the general but they can never take away your spirit and ambition.”
‘Big Supporter’ of Falun Dafa Writes to UN
Independent candidate for McPherson Michael Kaff, who considers himself proud to be a “big supporter” of Falun Dafa practitioners, said he had written to a number of influential people in the past three years to raise awareness of the ongoing persecution in Mainland China.
“I have written to people who I know are associated with the United Nations in relation to China’s treatment of Falun Gong/Falun Dafa practitioners. I have been pretty active in putting that message out there,”
Kaff said. “I wrote to somebody who was working with the United Nations to do with human rights abuses in North Korea and, when I talked to him about Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, he was [saying] ‘Oh, I haven’t heard much about that.’”
Persecution is an Example of CCP Putting Power Before Freedom
Liberal Democrats candidate for Fadden Jake Welch described the Chinese regime’s persecution as a typical example of government repressing citizens to appear powerful.
“It is really an example of how people put power over the top of their own policies and principles of personal human rights and freedom,” Welch said. “[There should be] policies that put people first, our own human rights, social freedom and freedom of speech and freedom of religion before any ideas with the power of the nation.”
Candidate Recounts His Terrifying Detention in China
Fellow Liberal Democrats Senate candidate Gabe Buckley revealed he had personally experienced detention in Mainland China many years ago because he was carrying a Hardy Boys adventure series novel at Guangzhou Railway Station.
“This particular title was called the ‘Pentagon Spy,’ which is probably not the wisest title to be dragging around Mainland China, so some security guards at the railway station noticed I was carrying around a book that had the words ‘Pentagon Spy’ written on it and I ended up bailed up by armed guards, separated from my family and interrogated,” Buckley said. “I was a 10-year-old boy, I was terrified … that affected me and made me really wary of governments or anyone who says I have power over [others].”
He does not believe anyone including the Chinese regime has the right to bully others.
“I don’t think any person has a right to hold [that kind of] power over another person,” Buckley said. “If you want to go work for somebody, your boss has the power over you while you are working for them. That is voluntary, you decide to go and take instructions that is fine.”
Prosecutor and Qigong Practitioner Hopes to Bring Change
Pirate Party Lead Senate Candidate Brandon Selic said he has worked as a lawyer for nearly 12 years at Southport Courthouse, criminal defense lawyer and prosecutor, and kept up-to-date with developments in the persecution of Falun Dafa.
“I am well aware of the human rights issues that some of you may be more concerned about back home, particularly about Falun Dafa,” Selic said. “I have [also] been a practitioner of [another form of] qigong for quite some time, which I found quite beneficial for my health.”
He said he hoped his party, which started as a copyright movement in South Australia, will be able to change what he called a “poor rhetoric” in Canberra for at least the past few years
“Particularly the last decade and for the last 20 years in human rights and how they treat refugees,” Selic said. “We are hoping to bring a better class of politician back to Canberra and to other parts of Australia.”
Candidate Devotes His Life to Upholding Human Rights
Independent Senate Candidate Ghulam Hassan revealed he had also faced a form of spiritual persecution in his home land of Afghanistan, and now devotes his time to advocating for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
“Every principle and every faith has the right to exist and has also the right to interact,” Ghulam said. “[The Chinese regime] should find a better solution, a peaceful solution with Uighur and everyone else with Buddhists, Dalai Lama and Falun Dafa. I am not supporting that harsh treatment [by the CCP].”
Candidates Oppose CCP’s Influence in Australia
Candidates also opposed the Chinese regime’s attempts to influence Australian politics and the broader community to refrain from supporting Falun Dafa activities.
Turner believes the Australian Government should limit foreign influence as much as possible.
“The activities of the Tourism Confucius Institute are trying to spread the propaganda and spread the control and tell people don’t be involved in Falun Dafa or we will cut you off, that is unacceptable,” he said. “I think we need to really keep a lid on that on foreign influence. We need to resist that in any way we can … [to] maintain freedom of expression of critical views but to make sure there is no undue influence. No country should unilaterally influence another country or the citizens of that country.”
Independent candidate for the Senate Hetty Johnston voiced her complete opposition to Australian democracy being “for sale or foreign manipulation.”
“I totally object to any foreign power’s (including China) or international movement or business influence in Australian politics, or to any of our political parties accepting donations from them, or making covert deals to inject funding into Australian politics in order to have influence in Australian policy,” she said in an email to practitioners, encouraging them to keep trying to end to the persecution in China. “This is a large part of the reason I am running in this election.”
Australian Conservatives Senate candidate Lyle Shelton expressed concern about the persecution, organ harvesting of Falun Dafa practitioners, and China’s influence in Australia. Fellow Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi said he had seen practitioners hold a vigil outside Parliament House in Canberra, and introduced legislation in the Senate during 2018 to counter foreign influence from the Confucius Institute.
Kaff believes no foreign influence should be tolerated in Australian politics and all confirmed cases of foreign agents corrupting elected representatives should be listed on a public register.
“It should be open to the public so we can all make submissions to this commission against corruption and make sure that people aren’t being influenced by China,” he said. We need to look after the Australian people and those minorities or those individuals and associations that are for peace and you guys are. We have to make sure you are looked after.”
We Should Not Be Doing CCP Any Favors Says Candidate
Kaff also said he would not hesitate to raise the persecution of Falun Dafa in federal parliament if elected, and push for Australia to diversify its trade away from China and back to former major trading partners like Japan and other Asian countries.
“I am happy to stand up in Parliament and say it as it is on your behalf and make sure that the Federal Government and the world and the press know what is going on,” Kaff said. “They have passed resolution after resolution in the Senate but have they really done anything about it? Not really. Has it affected our trade with China? Not really. Perhaps we should be looking at getting our trade elsewhere … they are not doing you guys any favors, so we really should not be doing them any favors.”
Threat of Damaging China Relations Is a ‘Terrible Idea’
Welch described the Chinese regime’s threat that engaging with Falun Dafa practitioners would damage Australia’s relationship with China as a “terrible idea.”
“Restricting people in Australia who are practicing their own freedom, based on the relationships we have with someone overseas is a terrible idea to me. The government and a lot of politicians these days they really focus power over policy over their own principles and that is something I really believe the Liberal Democrats can really counter,” he said. “We will never violate human rights and the economic social principles that we have put in place.”
Candidate Will ‘Hit Back’ at CCP’s Bullying
Buckley described Beijing’s treatment of Falun Dafa practitioners as a classic example of bullying and behavior he would fully oppose, even if the Chinese regime threatened to cancel trade deals with Australia.
“I will put myself between you and the Chinese Government, I don’t care, I’ll hit back,” he said. “I won’t even listen to the Australian Government when it tells me what to do let alone the Chinese Government, so they have got no hope … if we are not hurting anyone, who has the right to tell us to stop. Who has the right to tell you to stop? No one.”
Selic echoed this view and believes any trade threat from Beijing would only make him support Falun Dafa more vocally.
“If we received a letter like that we [at the party] would go. I would consider that an invitation from them to us,” he said.
Foreign Influence is Real Says Candidate
Great Australian Party Senate candidate Arjay Martin said as a current law student at Bond University, he is convinced foreign governments do “interfere with people’s rights.”
“There were politicians who were going to meet with Falun Gong practitioners and leaders until they were told ‘you cannot meet with these people otherwise you will be dis-endorsed for the next election’ – that is completely ridiculous,” he said. “Even when it is a small country relatively, we need to stand up for our own people, rights, privileges, right to speak [and] right to have expression.”
CCP’s Days Are Numbered According to Candidate
Ghulam believes the current Chinese regime’s days are numbered and change has to happen.
“A mix of old socialism and modern capitalism, a so-called blended in the Chinese culture – is this correct, is this right, is this going to exist for decades to come or is it going to change?” he said. “I think it is going to change.”