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Santa Parade spurns activists again

Published: 10:53AM Sunday November 23, 2008 Source: Newstalk ZB/ONE News

Organisers of Auckland's Santa Parade are bracing for their annual legal battle with the Chinese spiritual group, Falun Gong.

The trust which runs the event has refused permission to a 60-piece marching band attached to the group, which has religious, cultural, and political elements, saying Falun Gong's presence doesn't fit with something aimed mainly at children.

But there a legal challenge has been mounted against the the Auckland Children's Christmas Parade decision, meaning that Chairman Michael Barnett is preparing for a court hearing come Monday.

He says the case is a drain on resources, and he wishes they would just go away. Barnett estimates it will soak up several thousand dollars to defend the case.

Barnett says other groups who have been refused permission to take part "take it on the chin".

The practitioners were allowed to partcipate in the Wellington Santa Parade last weekend, at the concession of the council.

Auckland councillor Cathy Casey has expressed concern at the decision, suggesting trade or political motivations with China were the real reason for Auckland's blanket refusal.

Falun Gong is an illegal organisation in China, and its adherents face heavy prosecution from the ruling regime there.

However, Barnett says the parade is no place for political protest by any group, as it is a family event focussed on children and Christmas as determined by the objectives of the trust which created it.