The man who attacked human rights protesters in London’s Chinatown has been ordered to serve a two-year community order and to pay compensation for the assault.
The attack on Falun Gong practitioners in Chinatown, where they regularly appeal for an end to the persecution of their spiritual discipline in China, was the latest in a series of incidents that they say echo campaigns incited by the Chinese communist regime in other countries.
The magistrate described the attack of October 19th as “serious and premeditated”, and warned the offender that if he were to repeat the offence, he could expect to go to prison.
“Had it not been for the fact that you had mental health problems you would be at very real risk of going to prison today,” said the magistrate at West London Magistrates Court on Monday, November 11th, as he sentenced Alexander Ortiz.
While they welcomed the results of the court case, Falun Gong practitioners in London’s Chinatown say it didn’t address their deepest concern – that there is an orchestrated attempt to whip up hatred against them. They say several other incidents over the last few months by other people throwing eggs and damaging materials cannot be explained the actions of this one man.
“Attacks have intensified over the last year not just in London but at appeal sites in Chinatowns around the world,” said Helen Li, who helps organise the London appeal. “We know it is organised.”
“The first two attacks in London were carried out by prominent members of the Chinatown community,” she said, describing how they tried to tear down banners and materials. Since then there have been another six incidents involving people throwing eggs at them.
Over the last few months, the atmosphere in Chinatown has changed, said Li. “When we are walking through the area we hear more negative comments.”
Falun Gong is a spiritual meditation discipline that enjoyed growing popularity in the 1990s in China until 1999, when the communist regime initiated a cultural-revolution style campaign to eradicate it.
As they appeal to expose a persecution that they say has claimed the lives of thousands of people in China, Falun Gong practitioners say they sometimes encounter hatred within the Chinese communities overseas. This hatred stems from a barrage of anti-Falun Gong propaganda spread through the state-controlled media, which filters through to overseas Chinese communities.
But more intense targeting of Falun Gong practitioners in Chinese communities has been instigated directly by the communist regime, either through the consulate or other links to the mainland.
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 were 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.
Although the London court case didn’t reveal a link to the Chinese Communist Party that Li is sure underlies the pattern of incidents, she says she feels the sentence was a positive step. “It sends out a very clear message. The judge was very clear: if you do this kind of thing, you will go to jail.
“Since the assault, we’ve had much more support from the police. In the past perhaps they didn’t feel it was serious, but now they do feel it’s serious and we get a much quicker response if we need to talk.”