Newspaper accuses printer of censorship
By: Tracy Sherlock
2009-02-13 23:35

A freedom-of-the-press battle is brewing as the managing editor of a Vancouver weekly newspaper accused his printer of censorship.

Burnaby-based Epoch Press initially balked at printing the Asian Pacific Post's Jan. 8 issue, because of a front-page article the printer's owner saw as critical of the Falun Gong.

Although the paper was eventually printed, the two sides disagree on whether it has been distributed.

"This is an unprecedented issue of press freedom," said Mike Roberts, managing editor of the Asian Pacific Post. "We feel completely betrayed. This is a matter of trust and integrity."

The owner of Epoch Press, Frank Cui, a Falun Gong practitioner, said in an e-mail he saw the article as an indirect attack on his faith because it repeated comments made by the Chinese government.

"The Chinese Communist Party's voice should not be allowed to poison innocent people to hate others," Cui said. "Articles like this one that gives voice to the Communist regime make people think that maybe the CCP is justified in their attack and that maybe Falun Gong [members] somehow deserve to be killed or tortured."

Cui said he was pressured not to print the newspaper, but after a delay of one day he printed and distributed all of the papers the next day. The paper was sent to the printers on Tuesday, Jan. 6, and usually is delivered to the paper's offices on Wednesday morning.

Roberts said some papers were delivered to the offices late on Friday, but that Cui had held the papers back from the newspaper's distribution team, ThinkBox National Marketing Inc. Cui said he distributed the newspapers on Friday, Jan. 9.

Roberts said the Asian Pacific Post's publisher, Harbinder Singh Sewak, had been through Vancouver and Richmond on Sunday checking the paper's drop boxes, but had seen no copies of the Jan. 8 edition. "[Cui] doesn't even have our distribution list," Roberts said.

The article is about a presentation by the Divine Performing Arts tour coming to Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre in April. The show tells the story of Chinese cultural history through music and dance. Despite the article's support of the Falun Gong, Cui said including the perspective of the Chinese government made the Falun Gong look "controversial."

Said Roberts: "The Falun Gong, which owns this printing press, vetted our article and finding it not to its taste, simply refused to let it see the light of day. This is a first in Canadian journalistic history and an outrage of the highest order."

Meanwhile, the Falun Dafa Association said in an e-mailed statement Sunday: "This act to hold the Asian Pacific Post does not represent the position of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, nor the Falun Gong community at large."

Many of the performers in the show are Falun Gong practitioners, and the show includes some scenes of torture, according to the Asian Pacific Post story. The story also says the Chinese government has persuaded some venues to cancel the show.

Cui defended his actions, saying he believes the Chinese Communist Party tries to make the public believe that the victim is wrong, which creates doubts in people's minds about Falun Gong.

Falun Gong has manned a protest in front of the Chinese consulate on Granville Street for seven years.

The Asia Pacific Post, an English language Asian newspaper established in 1993, has an agreement with Vancouver Sun subscribers, whereby they can request inclusion of the Post with their Thursday delivery.

(Vancouver Sun, January 12, 2009)