Today’s news:

Avella seeks investigation

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was expected to announce Thursday that he will introduce a resolution into the City Council calling for the FBI to launch an investigation into the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan for its alleged involvement in attacks on Falun Gong practitioners in Flushing.

Members of the religious sect have claimed that the Chinese Consulate General, Keyu Peng, has been orchestrating attacks on its practitioners in Flushing during the last several weeks.

Avella told TimesLedger Tuesday he believes federal authorities should look into the claims and said he also plans to call for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to investigate alleged attacks on Falun Gong members as hate crimes.

"It's not about their particular beliefs — it could be about anyone's faith and anyone's beliefs" Avella said. "When anyone's rights are abused or abridged, that's un-American and we need to stand up to that."

He added: "I certainly think there is enough evidence to justify an investigation."

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice introduced in China in the early 1990s by Li Hongzhi. It grew quickly, but was formally banned by the ruling Communist Party in 1999, creating a clash between the two groups that has lasted to this day.

Falun Gong's increased presence has become a point of controversy in the largely Asian community of Flushing in recent weeks, particularly after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake decimated parts of central China, killing at least 70,000 people.

Police said Chinese nationalists have sporadically engaged Falun Gong members in Flushing since May 17, at times becoming violent, leading to several arrests.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), who represents Flushing, recently told TimesLedger he staunchly defends Falun Gong supporters' right to protest, but that he personally had not seen substantive evidence pointing to the Chinese Consulate General.

"No government has a right to interfere with a right to freedom of speech," Ackerman said. "I'm not saying it was the embassy. I have no independent proof of that. Certainly if there was a case to be proven then it should be investigated, but I have not seen that evidence."

Calls to the Consulate General were not returned for comment.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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