SAN FRANCISCO—The practitioners of Falun Gong in San Francisco held a demonstration and press conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday. Their message: 13 years of hate crimes directed against them in the city by the bay have to stop.
The practitioners were spurred into action by a violent incident around midday this past Sunday.
At the corner of Grant and Washington streets in Chinatown, a group of four or five practitioners gathered to give out fliers and hold up a placard that tells about what Falun Gong is and how it is persecuted in China. According to practitioners present at the scene, the following scenario played out.
At this same street corner, a Chinese man wearing a red t-shirt stood on a stool behind the practitioners. Standing above them on his stool, he loudly cursed Falun Gong and shouted out slogans that support the Chinese regime.
An older Chinese man wearing a hat then approached the Falun Gong practitioners. He also cursed Falun Gong and then took a swing at one of them, a young man named Derek Wang, connecting with his jaw. He then struck Wang’s face a second time.
The man in the red shirt then got down off his stool and urged the older man to leave before the police arrived—practitioners had photographed the old man striking Wang and called 911 asking for assistance.
The older man started to leave but practitioners blocked his way. The man in the red t-shirt then punched one of the female practitioners, Ms. Wang, in the face. Ms. Wang is not related to Derek Wang.
Before the police arrived, a Chinese woman in the crowd that had formed urged the old man to lie down and pretend he was the one who had been struck. He lay down and closed his eyes, and when the paramedics arrived, they loaded him into an ambulance and took him away.
Police reports have been filed against both the older man in the hat and the man in the red t-shirt. At the trauma center of the San Francisco General Hospital, Derek Wang and Ms. Wang were both diagnosed as having contusions on their faces.
“Confrontations like this have happened five times in the past seven months,” said Sherry Zhang, a spokesperson for Falun Gong in San Francisco. “On two previous occasions we had female practitioners struck. We have had materials torn out of our hands and stolen or ripped up. And we have regularly encountered the foul words and the cursing.”
“But it is not just these past seven months. The practitioners of Falun Gong in San Francisco have patiently endured treatment like this for 13 years,” Zhang said.
“These are hate crimes. The only reason for them is because people influenced by the Chinese Consulate want to attack Falun Gong. We went to the City Hall on Thursday asking that these crimes be stopped,” said Zhang.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that involves doing five meditative exercises and living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
In July 1999 the then-head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin, launched a campaign to “eradicate” the practice. Scholar Julia Ching from the University of Toronto wrote in 2001: “According to Communist propaganda, the Falun Gong was ‘competing for popularity with the party.’ This is an unpardonable crime.”
On the steps of City Hall on Thursday several dozen practitioners lined up holding banners with slogans such as “San Francisco is not Beijing” and “Stop the Chinese Consulate’s Persecution of Falun Gong in San Francisco.”
Zhang said the incident in Chinatown this past Sunday is part of a pattern of incidents aimed at silencing practitioners. She said the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is behind the attacks and the abuse and pointed to similar incidents in other U.S. cities.
One of the incidents Zhang mentioned involved attacks on Falun Gong practitioners in Chinatown in Flushing, New York, that began in May 2008 and lasted for months. In that case, the Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu was caught on a taped phone call boasting about how he had personally encouraged the attacks.
A former Chinese consular official has confirmed Zhang’s allegations that Chinese Consulate staff work to silence Falun Gong practitioners outside of China.
In testimony before the U.S. Congress Mr. Chen Yonglin, the former consul for political affairs for the People’s Republic of China Consulate in Sydney, Australia, spoke of a “war” against Falun Gong that was “one of the main tasks of the Chinese missions overseas.”
“The Falun Gong policy of the central CCP for the overseas missions,” Chen testified, “is ‘To fight eyeball to eyeball, to attack voluntarily and aggressively.’”