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Falun Gong Protesters Sue City To Keep|7-Year Vigil At Chinese Consulate Alive

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Falun Gong practitioners keeping a 24-hour vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver have sued the City of Vancouver and Mayor Sam Sullivan, claiming the city is trying illegally to remove the protest to appease the Chinese and Canadian governments.

Falun Gong members have maintained the vigil for nearly seven years, to "raise awareness among Canadians, and also Chinese citizens visiting the city, about the atrocities being perpetrated against Falun Gong practitioners in the People's Republic of China, and to create political pressure for the cessation of those atrocities," the complaint states in B.C. Supreme Court.

Protesters have come under pressure in the past, to reduce the size of signs on a sidewalk shelter. Officials from the city and federal governments have tried to remove the protesters, claiming the shelter violates city bylaws, and that the protest may violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

"The state-controlled media in China tells Chinese citizens that Falun Gong is an evil cult that has been banned by all other governments," the complaint states. "The vigil's location and enduring round-the-clock expression provides a uniquely effective way of demonstrating to Chinese citizens that their government is not telling them the truth about Falun Gong."

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the city bylaw does not apply to their protest, or that the vigil is constitutionally exempt from the bylaw. They seek an injunction preventing any further attempts to shut down the protest "until the persecution by the Chinese government of Falun Gong practitioners ceases and desists to the complete satisfaction of this Court."

Plaintiffs are represented by Joseph J. Arvay.

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