The Falun Gong protest structure outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver shouldn't be dismantled, because it is not sitting on a city street, a lawyer representing the protesters at a court hearing said this week.
The meditation hut, flanked by a large brightly painted sign, has been in front of the consulate on Granville Street since 2001.
It is part of a round-the-clock protest against what the protesters say is the murder and persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
The protest began as a hunger strike in 2001, and now after seven years of continuous occupation, the City of Vancouver is asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia for an order to have the structure taken down.
On Monday, the city's lawyer Tom Zworski argued in court the hut is an unauthorized permanent structure, which violates the city's street bylaw.
But Falun Gong member Sue Zhang said the group negotiated with the city in 2003 to get permission to maintain the structure on the site and reduced its size by one-third as a show of good faith.
"After 2003, they talked to us … and they were very happy .… They even thanked us," said Zhang.
The group has an e-mail from city hall which supports that claim, their lawyer Joe Arvay told the court on Monday.
Arvay conceded the structure is on city property, but said it is not on a street and thus not violating the bylaw.
He also said Vancouver's bylaw actually violates the charter rights of citizens to use the streets.
But Zworski countered if that's true then the city would be unable to stop anybody from building anything they want anywhere they like.