Review: Gardens bans Falun Gong

15 Sep

The row between Falun Gong and Wellington officials has stepped up after members were told to remove a banner promoting meditation sessions from public gardens.

The group, which exercises every Sunday in the Botanic Gardens, was ordered by a Wellington City Council officer this month to remove a banner, which reads: “Falun Dafa – meditation, exercise, teaching”.

The council said in a letter last week that the banner used by the group breached regulations because of Falun Gong’s political links.

“We do not permit banners, political concerts or other contentious activities in the garden for the simple reason that it is a place of rest and recreation,” acting gardens manager David Sole said.

But members, who have refused to remove the banner, say the session is not political and they are being unfairly targeted.

The latest controversy follows a series of rows between Falun Gong and the council, including an attempt by officials to stop members from entering Christmas and Chinese New Year parades, prompting the group to file a High Court case last year.

Falun Gong is a banned organisation in China and one of the reasons given by the council for excluding it from events here is that it is a political group.

However, Falun Gong says it is a spiritual and cultural organisation.

The council denies it is discriminating against Falun Gong. “It doesn’t matter who they are, park users can’t display banners without authorisation,” council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

The complaints had no impact on council decision-making.

The council would defend its stance if Falun Gong continued High Court action.

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