Newsday, June 26, 2003
By Bryan Virasami, Staff Writer
A group of Falun Gong followers said Thursday that they were verbally and physically assaulted outside a Manhattan restaurant after a dinner party to honor the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations.
The confrontation Monday night involved at least six practitioners who were handing out fliers outside Yi Dong restaurant on East Broadway in Chinatown. The fliers were critical of the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong members said that after Ambassador Yingfan Wang and other diplomats left the dinner, the dinner’s organizers proceeded to slap the fliers out of their hands and struck at least one practitioner, Jun Li, 48, of Flushing.
“They cursed at me and say, ‘You Falun Gong, go die,’” Li said Thursday. “The people around me started beating me from the front and back.”
Guan Liang, 42, of Manhattan, allegedly punched Li once in the eye, according to a police spokesman. He was charged with third-degree assault on Wednesday, police said.
At a news conference in Chinatown Thursday, Falun Gong members said the incident was triggered by Liang, whom they identified as chairman of the Unified Organization of Overseas Chinese Associations.
Liang did not answer calls to his cell phone Thursday and his voice mail did not accept messages.
At the Falun Gong news conference, several large photos of Liang were taped to the wall, showing him confronting Falun Gong members. The photos also included close-ups of Li, who suffered a black eye and several bruises on his chest and abdomen.
Before the dinner, practitioner Frank Lee, a computer consultant from East Brunswick, N.J., said he was confronted but was not attacked.
“They wanted to start a fight and I had no intention to fight anyone,” Lee said. “I told them I’m not here to start trouble, I just wanted to raise awareness.”
Falun Gong, created in 1992 by a Flushing man, was banned in 1999 by the Chinese government and labeled an “evil cult.” Followers said they have millions of followers in 40 countries.
Practitioners said their teachings prohibit violence and promote use of “refining the body and mind through special exercises and meditation.”