A series of attacks on protesters in London’s Chinatown has left victims concerned they are facing a campaign of hate and harassment imported from mainland China.
The latest attack on Saturday, October 19, turned to violence when a man throwing eggs rounded on the person who tried to stop him, punching him in the face. Two days later he pleaded guilty to assault in court.
The victim was Mr Li, who practices Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been subject to extreme large-scale persecution in China.
Along with other Falun Gong practitioners, he spends some of his spare time at weekends going to Chinatown, collecting signatures for a petition appealing for the UN to investigate the harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners. They emphasise that their appeal is peaceful and non-confrontational, in line with the practice’s principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
On Saturday he was handing out flyers when he saw a man start to throw eggs at people doing the meditation exercises of Falun Gong. He went over to the man to stop him.
“He angrily turned round and, without a word, started to punch me in the face, breaking my glasses frame. He continued to punch me, again and again,” said Mr Li. “He also kneed me in the stomach, breaking my umbrella.”
The attack was stopped when other people came over and restrained the attacker. Mr Li was left with cuts to his face.
The assailant, Mr Alexander Ortiz, pleaded guilty to assault by beating on Monday, October 21 in West London Magistrates Court. He has a history of mental health problems and is not ethnic Chinese.
Falun Gong practitioners in London’s Chinatown say it is hard to explain the attacks as simply being the actions of one mentally unstable individual. They say they have been attacked six times by other individuals throwing eggs in the last three months, and are worried that the situation resembles the start of campaigns of harassment which have escalated in Chinese communities in other countries in the past.
Since 1999, Falun Gong has been the target of a large-scale persecution in China that has resulted in over 3,727 deaths, according to the website minghui.org. In addition to estimates of hundreds of thousands incarcerated and tortured, the regime has stirred up hatred against Falun Gong through a propaganda campaign propagated unchallenged through the state-controlled media.
That hate propaganda trickles through to overseas Chinese communities, which are closely connected to the mainland society.
Falun Gong practitioners in London are worried the attacks in London could be the prelude to a more co-ordinated attempt to stir up trouble.
A series of attacks on Falun Gong practitioners in New York’s Chinatown in Flushing in 2008, sometimes involving hundreds of people, was shown to have been instigated by the Chinese Consul in New York, who was caught on tape admitting his involvement.
Last year a series of assaults and was carried out on Falun Gong in Hong Kong by a group called the Hong Kong Youth Care Association. In 2012, a former underground member of the CCP in Hong Kong told the Epoch Times that an official in the People’s Republic of China Liaison Office said that a group directly funded by the Party, at a high level, would begin attacking Falun Gong in Hong Kong.
A reporter for Hong Kong’s Next magazine found that the Association shared the same office and personnel as a branch of the 610 Office, an organisation that was specifically set up to oversee the persecution of Falun Gong. The Association’s leader was found to be a Party functionary from Jiangxi Province in mainland China.
The Chinese community in the UK is closely knit, with ties to the Chinese communist party overseas and with business connections back to the mainland, says Mr Li. This is the reason he has requested full images of his face be withheld and that his full Chinese name is not published. He works at a Chinese company and is worried about the consequences of full disclosure. “I’m not personally afraid of the Chinese Communist Party. But working at a Chinese company, if this situation is known to everyone, the situation can become difficult, complicated,” he said.
Other Falun Gong practitioners point out that an older lady who regularly goes to Chinatown to appeal for Falun Gong was herself subjected to torture, incarceration, and persecution in China. But she declined to be interviewed, worried about the safety of her family in China.
Despite his ordeal, Mr Li says he will continue to hand out flyers in Chinatown. “I won’t be put off. The reaction from the public is usually very positive. We collect a lot of signatures for our petition against organ harvesting.”