SAN FRANCISCO—When Justin Chen sat down to meditate in Chinatown on Sunday night, he never expected that two men would throw a large garbage bin on his head.
Chen, 38, sells advertising for a local TV station during the week. He is part of a group of volunteers who stay overnight in Chinatown on the weekends to guard against vandalism. They are looking after a set of signs containing information about the persecution in China of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
The signs have been a hot target in Chinatown since they were put up one month ago.
While Chen was practicing his meditation exercise on Sunday night, sitting next to the signs at the intersection of Washington and Grant Ave., the unexpected happened.
He says he was silently approached by two men from behind, whom he hadn’t noticed, who then threw a wheeled black municipal garbage bin on the back of his head.
“For a few seconds I couldn’t feel anything, even my eyes couldn’t see anything,” Chen said. When he was able to see again and turned around, he saw two Chinese men, whom he estimates to be in their 20′s, run away.
Chen, who was hit in his face last December by two individuals in clear daylight while holding up a banner about Falun Gong, says that he thinks the situation has become worse, with individuals attempting to cause serious physical harm.
He pointed out that such a garbage can, thrown hard by two young men, could hurt someone badly.
The back of Chen’s head, neck, and shoulders had significant swelling, leading him to file a police report and go to the hospital for an examination, for which he awaits the final results.
The attack on Chen marks the latest in a series of incidents aimed at the signs and the practitioners of Falun Gong who hold them.
Last month a Neighborhood Court found two men of Chinese descent guilty of assaulting Falun Gong practitioners in Chinatown.
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese meditation practice based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In China the discipline was practiced by an estimated one out of every thirteen Chinese, before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a campaign in July 1999 to eradicate it.
The Falun Dafa Information Center estimates that hundreds of thousands of practitioners are held in labor camps in China, where they are routinely subjected to torture and brainwashing. The center can confirm over 3,500 deaths from torture and abuse, but says the actual number of deaths is much higher. In addition, according to independent investigators, at least 60,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been killed as their organs have been harvested for use in transplantation operations.
Sherry Zhang, spokesperson for Falun Gong in San Francisco, understands the incident on Sunday night in the context of the persecution in China.
“This fits in the pattern that we have seen over the past 10 to 12 months in San Francisco, where, especially in Chinatown we have seen an increase in the amount of violence against Falun Gong practitioners,” said Zhang in a telephone interview.
According to Zhang there have been at least 12 documented cases of violence aimed at Falun Gong practitioners over the past year.
“They clearly know that they are Falun Gong practitioners, because the people that are being attacked are usually doing meditation or holding a banner that identifies them as a Falun Gong practitioner,” said Zhang.
“And often before the attack happens there is hate speech—they don’t like Falun Gong; they hate Falun Gong.”
Zhang attributes the attacks aimed at the group to misinformation spread by the CCP over the past 13 years.
“The media under the Chinese Communist Party’s control have always been spreading lies and misinformation about Falun Gong. They definitely don’t want people to know what is happening in China and what Falun Gong really is,” said Zhang.
In a similar incident last month, a group of seven to eight Chinese teenagers ran up to the signs and started to tear them down while shouting that Falun Gong is a religion, and that all religions are bad, says Charles Cai.
Cai, 45, is an engineer who designs integrated circuits. He was helping keep the overnight watch that night. He says that he had a mop thrown at him by the group of teenagers.
For Chen the incident on Sunday night is hard to take. He arrived in the United States from China in November last year. His wife and eight-year-old son are still in China. He hasn’t told his wife about the incident fearing she might worry for his safety.
But it is Chen who worries more about the safety of his wife. She was previously arrested by police in China for her belief in Falun Gong and taken from their hometown in Liaoning Province to the capital Beijing. Their home has been ransacked by police with personal belongings, including Falun Gong books, taken away.
In China Chen worked as a successful marketing manager for a big company. But he was arrested for his beliefs and put in a labor camp for two years, without any trial or sentence.
Now standing in Chinatown, Chen sees around him in the little gift shops the type of decorations he was forced to make in the labor camp, with hours that ran until midnight or 1 am and started at 4 or 5am.
Chen is happy, though, that he is in the United States now. “Here in this country they allow you to believe in anything. You believe in Falun Gong, you believe in Buddha, you are Christian, that’s okay, nobody will disturb you,” Chen said.
But the situation in Chinatown is different says Chen. “There are a lot people who have wrong information. They were deceived by the Chinese regime and the Chinese Consulate.”
“They hate Falun Gong practitioners. They have attacked us a lot of times. They say bad words every day to us,” Chen said.
But Chen says he is determined to continue peacefully telling others in Chinatown about Falun Gong. “We are Falun Gong practitioners; we have to follow Falun Gong’s principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance,” he said.
“These signs—maybe they fear people knowing the truth,” said Chen, “The signs tell about what is happening in China, about how the Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted in China.”
“If everybody knows the truth about what is happening in China, this persecution cannot continue,” Chen said.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.