Chinese accused of slander

Edmonton, Canada - Alberta Justice is looking at possible charges against staff at the Chinese consulate over alleged propaganda material defaming the Falun Gong movement, according to city police.

Const. Stephen Camp of the Edmonton Police Service hate crimes unit confirmed yesterday his office has just wrapped up an investigation into booklets distributed in the city in 2004 by Chinese consular officials.

The booklets allegedly slandered Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual movement banned by the Beijing government. Camp wouldn't describe the material, but local Falun Gong members say it accused the movement of promoting suicide, self-mutilation and murder.

"It was filled with all these bloody splatter pictures of people who had cut themselves, and it said this was what Falun Gong members did to themselves," said Shar Chen, local Falun Gong practitioner.

"They called us a cult, they said we murder family members," said Brad Bussche, Canadian president of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.

"This material was being distributed directly out of the Calgary consulate - they had the brochures on display there.

"It's great news that the EPS has passed this on to the government. Maybe someone in government will finally stand up in defence of Canadian values."

Camp investigated the material under Section 319.2 of the Criminal Code, the law banning the "willful promotion of hatred" against an "identifiable group."

"We felt (the booklets) did constitute a breach of the law," he said. "But the law states that it's the government which has to decide whether a charge is laid in these cases."

Police were only able to investigate the booklets because they were distributed outside the Calgary consulate, which is the extraterritorial turf of the People's Republic of China.

Consular officials don't share the immunity from criminal charges enjoyed by diplomats. They can be charged, but they can't be arrested or detained by the police of a host country.

Even so, said Bussche, a hate-crime charge laid against a Chinese official in Alberta would send a strong message back to Beijing.

"The Chinese government is defaming and persecuting members of Falun Gong across the country. Alberta could be the first province to lead the way, to say enough is enough."

Camp, meanwhile, dismissed a recent press report that claimed his office was investigating possible Chinese espionage activities in Edmonton.

"City police forces don't investigate spies - that's not part of our mandate," he said.

No one from Alberta Justice or the Calgary consulate could be reached.

The Chinese government has been trying to drive the Falun Gong movement underground for years.