NEW YORK—The Chinese New Year parade in Manhattan last Sunday, organized by the Better Chinatown Society, proceeded through Chinatown’s streets in the bitter cold and ended at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. On the sidelines was a group of nearly a hundred people who have been denied from participating in the parade every year since 2008—people who practice Falun Dafa.
Unable to join the official parade, the group mingled with the people on the sidewalks on Mott Street for an impromptu celebration of their own.
The group made its way to a nearby park, and spectators followed to take in performances by the dragon and lion dancers, who drew an ovation. Meanwhile over a hundred others lined up to demonstrate Falun Dafa’s exercises.
Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a traditional Chinese meditation practice in which practitioners follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance in daily life.
Persecuted in China and Beyond
In China, more than 70 million people practiced Falun Dafa by 1999, and its popularity aroused jealousy in Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin, who initiated a nationwide persecution campaign against practitioners. Thousands of people have been tortured to death in a persecution campaign that continues to this day and has often extended outside China.
Manhattan’s Chinese New Year Parade is one of many examples of Communist Party influence on U.S. soil.
“The parade is organized by people who have direct and indirect ties to a foreign communist government, and that relationship is dictating the tenor of the parade,” said Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center.
Steven Tin, the parade organizer and president of the Better Chinatown Society, said Falun Dafa practitioners can “never get in” to the annual parades, according to Wenyi Wang, member of the Falun Dafa parade organizing committee.
Tin has used various reasons to deny practitioners entry throughout the years including “potential security issues and disruption.” Falun Dafa practitioners participated in a Chinese New Year parade in Flushing one day prior to the Manhattan event, to much fanfare and with no disruptions.
According to Wang, the Better Chinatown Society is closely connected to the Chinese consulate. Tin’s son has close business ties with mainland China, Wang said. Allowing Falun Dafa practitioners to participate in the parade could thus threaten the financial interests of the Tin family, she said.
The influence of Chinese consulates on local Chinese communities has been well-documented since 2005, when Chen Yonglin, the former consul for political affairs of the Chinese consulate general of Sydney, defected from the Chinese Communist Party.
“In each Chinese mission overseas, there must be at least one official in charge of the Falun Gong affairs, and the head and the deputy head of the mission will be responsible for the Falun Gong affairs,” said Chen.
In New York, these “affairs” included the 2008 attacks on Falun Dafa practitioners in Flushing, Queens. An investigation revealed that both New York Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu and current New York City Comptroller John Liu were actively meeting with and instructing the instigators.
Wang indicated that she intends to file a complaint against the parade organizers with federal, state, and city authorities.
Public Money, Foreign Interests
The NYPD overtime costs for running a parade routinely run well over $100,000. Browde is concerned that public funds are being used for a parade whose organizers routinely and openly discriminate, furthermore at the command of a foreign regime.
“It’s a parade that the city condones and protects and supports, and yet the parade excludes Falun Gong at the behest of the forces that are ultimately tied to the Chinese government,” Browde said.
Browde thinks the city should conduct its own investigation. He said that if the allegations are confirmed that the city-sponsored parade is being subject to the influence of a foreign government, the right to the parade should be given to community organizations not affiliated with the CCP.
“We would welcome everyone,” said Wang when asked if the Falun Dafa organizing committee would invite other community groups if it were to host the parade.
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