Place Falun Gong



Place Sun Yat Sen, a small square in the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown, is almost perenially occupied by members of Falun Gong, a psuedo-religious spiritual movement that originated in 1992 in China. Banned seven years later by the Chinese government, which insisted that it was a cult and devoted itself rather heavy-handedly to crushing it, Falun Gong has earned supporters and followers worldwide.

Here in Montreal, its members are a common sight on downtown streets, where they hand out pamplets explaining the movement’s philosophy and outlining the tactics used against it by the Chinese government, which allegedly include arrest, torture and systematic organ harvesting. In Sun Yat Sen Square, a diverse collection of Falun Gong followers can usually be found practicing meditation exercises next to posters that outline their group’s persecution in China.

It’s common for advocacy groups to lay claim to specific bits of public space. I’m reminded of the bizarre protester who picketed McGill University’s Roddick Gates every day for more than a year, hosting signs with messages that many considered to be anti-Semitic. (His goal, he said, was to protest his “wrongful dismissal” from the Jewish General Hospital and to “enlighten the global Jewish community of the virtues of Christianity.”) In Vancouver, the wall of the Chinese consulate is home to a perennial protest against China’s control of Tibet.

These kinds of permanent protests might seem a nuisance to some, but I think they are perfectly legitimate, no matter how strange or unsavoury their message. After all, the beauty of public space is that it’s public.

The Falun Gong people in Chinatown seem especially mindful of that. They never interfere with the many special events that take place there, they pack up their stuff at sundown every evening and they even lent a hand during last month’s Chinatown Clean Up.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday October 20 2007at 07:10 pm , filed under Canada, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “Place Falun Gong”

  • actually…my experience is that public space is a myth,…or public space is for a specific public and if you don’t happen to fit in, you are quite literally hauled away. to me it seems that every space is monitored, and regulated. if people (citizens) lodge a complaint with the police you can be asked to move along, if you do not move along you can be fined for loitering…or causing a nuisance. so if you do find a space/place that will tolerate you and your actions you will tend to return to that place.ask any homeless person how public public space is…

  • I’m not sure it’s possible for a space to ever be completely unregulated or unmonitored. Even in a completely anarchic society, space is always controlled by someone.

    You’re right that public space is, in many ways, an illusion. There are so many laws on the books that police can use to arbitrarily fine or detain someone. Homeless people getting tickets for jaywalking, for instance, and eventually getting thrown in jail for not paying those tickets.