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A Flushing man said he was one of several Falun Gong practitioners who were beaten by more than 10 people last week outside a restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown, where they were handing out fliers and holding signs about their spiritual group.
With a black left eye and bruises and scratches on his arm and chest, Jun Li, 48, who commutes from Flushing to Manhattan to work in construction, said he was pushed, punched and scratched by a gang of men led by a prominent Chinese businessman shortly before 10 p.m. on June 23.
"They said, 'Who are you? If you are Falun Gong, I'll beat you,'" Li recounted. "This is a hate crime. This should be stopped. If they beat me once today, who knows what will happen tomorrow or the next time if we don't stop this kind of hate?"
Police at the 5th Precinct in Manhattan said they were investigating the incident. Detective Ming Li said a man had been arrested June 25 for his role in the assaults and another perpetrator had been identified. But he would not confirm reports by Falun Gong practitioners that the man arrested was the leading Chinese businessman.
Li and several other Falun Gong practitioners had decided to promote Falun Gong in front of the restaurant 88 Palace located in a mall at 88 East Broadway beginning around 7 p.m. because there was a goodbye banquet being held there for the departing U.N. ambassador from the People's Republic of China, Yingfan Wang.
A spokeswoman for the mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, Mian Meng, said the Falun Gong group should have applied to the police to get a permit to conduct their activity outside the restaurant.
"The Falun Gong is an illegal operation, banned by the Chinese government," Meng said. "They made a disturbance to the dinner so that Ambassador Wang and all the guests and the host could not come outside."
A police officer from the 5th Precinct said the Falun Gong practitioners did not need a permit to demonstrate outside the restaurant.
"We want to have a peaceful dialogue with the Chinese government," Li said. "We want to let people know about the brutal persecution (of Falun Gong) in China."
Between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Li said some people from the banquet party cursed him and fellow Falun Gong practitioners and tore some of their posters. Then shortly before 10 p.m., a woman left the banquet followed by many others from the party. Li said the woman said something to the people gathered around her and then climbed into the back of a black Mercedes-Benz that left the scene.
The people who had been around her then allegedly surrounded the Falun Gong practitioners, verbally harassed them and beat them, Li said. The beating lasted about 10 minutes before police showed up and the assaulters dispersed, Li added.
"One person grabbed my head in a hold and one grabbed my ankle," Li said. "I didn't fight back. Falun Gong believe in truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. When people beat you, you don't beat back."
After the incident, Li said he went to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens in Flushing for treatment with a headache and difficulty breathing. He took several days off from work to recover from the beatings, he said.
Other Falun Gong practitioners who said they were victims of the alleged assault include Zhu Weiyong of Princeton, N.J.; Su Kangang and Li Li of Edison, N.J.; Kaishin Yen of Bergen County, N.J.; Willem Zuur of Cherry Hill, N.J.; and Frank Lee of East Brunswick, N.J.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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