When the Chinese Embassy in Mexico City had a local powerbroker in Chinatown wreck a Falun Gong parade float two weeks ago, they couldn’t have guessed it would backfire as badly as it did. Attempting to make the group invisible, the action instead gave Falun Gong national prominence and sympathy.
The occasion was a Chinese New Year celebration, and Hector Lopez did not want it marred by the presence of a group that is opposed both by Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in Mexico; as a representative for the businesses in Chinatown, he is beholden to and works closely with the latter.
Onlookers watched agog as a team of burly men—later found to be local government employees—tore apart the bright yellow parade float. The camera of a journalist from La Razón newspaper was rolling, and the story spread through YouTube and the Mexican press.
After a primetime expose of the incident by famous journalist Denise Maerker on her Starting Point program on Mexico’s major national station Televisa, officials from Cuauhtémoc district, where Chinatown is located, admitted there had been “excesses.”
Many Mexicans had never heard of Falun Gong—a Chinese spiritual practice with five meditation exercises and a focus on the principles truthfulness, compassion, forbearance—and its persecution in China, before they saw Ms. Maerker’s program.
Mexicans were astonished at the way the Falun Gong group was treated, and troubled at the implications: “Which law do we follow here: Mexico’s or China's?” asked Ms. Maerker pointedly at the end of her report.
Mr. Lopez holds the answer to that question. On that late night political analysis program Mr. Lopez explained that, as far as he is concerned, since Falun Gong is banned in China, practitioners are unwelcome in Mexico’s Chinatown. “I asked him if they [the embassy] pressured him, and he said ‘Ahhh… they suggested it,’” Ms. Maerker said in an interview with The Epoch Times.
“But he wouldn’t commit to tell me this on the camera, would he.” He later regretted admitting that, even though it was off camera, she said. Ms. Maerker did not include this remark in her broadcast because the Chinese Embassy would not give her an interview where she could corroborate the claim.
The Epoch Times called and sent emails to the Chinese Embassy in Mexico seeking comment, but they did not respond.
On other occasions Mr. Lopez revealed his relationship with the embassy to others. On Feb. 5, the day the float was dismantled, he explained to Gerardo de la Concha, a political commentator and supporter of Falun Gong who was on site, that his job is the “intermediary” between local merchants and the embassy, and that he “represented” the embassy’s interests in the area. The embassy made it clear that a Falun Gong presence was ill wanted, he said. The Chinese Embassy often wields strong influence over the Chinese Diaspora and Chinatowns, particularly in Latin American countries.
The video of the Feb. 5 incident shows Mr. Lopez’s conspicuous presence: he was standing next to the float in a black Chinese jacket emblazoned with a dragon, smoking a cigarette, watching his men take it apart.
In an interview with The Epoch Times Mr. Lopez justified the float’s demolition: “They come to introduce a meditation practice that is banned in China, and everyone here is Chinese. So, they are not welcome. … They were again prevented from participating on Sunday because they had no permission and no authorization to come to practice their meditation.”
Two years previously he had said the same thing to Rosaura Pliego, the Falun Gong practitioner who organized the float, and she and her peers were ejected from Chinatown. They had gone to the area during the Chinese New Year celebrations to teach their exercises and hand out flyers about the practice and the persecution.
After what happened two years ago, before the Chinese New Year Ms. Pliego contacted Mexico’s Human Rights Commission this time. It should have been an unnecessary step, but she wanted to take precautions.
Next: An ignored letter from the Human Rights Commission