Shop trashed for owner’s Falun Gong beliefs

Attacks on a shop belonging to a Pakuranga Chinese man have left him fearful of ongoing vandalism.

Pakuranga resident Bao Ji Zhang is fearful of follow-up attacks. Times photo Michelle Hyslop.
Bao Ji Zhang’s store near the Panmure roundabout, planned to open within the month, has been hit by graffiti and had its windows smashed three times in the past three weeks.

Mr Zhang is a practitioner of Falun Dafa (Falun Gong), the spiritual practice of Chinese origin that aims at improving wellbeing by following the tenets of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance.

Although his shop is presently empty, Mr Zhang had put up signs displaying the three tenets, as well as advertising free spiritual exercise sessions.

Over two weekends and a midweek incident since August 19, Chinese characters have been spray painted across glass panels and the building’s exterior.

A friend of Mr Zhang, Daisy Li, along with an independent translator have confirmed to the Times the messages read: ‘Long live the Chinese Communist Party,’ and ‘love my China’.

English profanities and a depiction of a red flag were also painted, Ms Li says. Chinese characters on the shop’s signs conveying “truthfulness” and “benevolence” were crossed out.

The first instance of vandalism to a Panmure shop cost hundreds of dollars to repair. Photo supplied.
Mr Zhang is dismayed at the attacks and fearful of future vandalism.

“I feel sad for the people who did it. They need some values, some compassion. My whole family has been affected by this worry.”

He believes students are responsible for the attacks, after being told of postings on New Zealand-based Chinese portal website, Skykiwi.com.

Ms Li says discussions in one of the site’s forums calls on others to commit vandalism.

“The writer talks about the glass being replaced after the windows were smashed as well,” she says.

The website’s managing director, Ally Zhang, says the site has more than 15,000 daily postings and it’s impossible to monitor them all.

“I think someone has told an opinion or personal news of this matter on our website. The forum is an open area, so it’s open to everyone. It just represents his personal view.”

Ms Zhang is investigating and looking to identify the offending contributor.
“If there’s a report that says the writer is misleading somebody, we’d definitely delete it.”

Police senior sergeant Danny Meade, officer in charge at Mt Wellington police station, says he’s worried by the attacks.

“It’s a concern if anyone in our area’s been attacked for any reason.

“If it’s simply because you’re the member of a relatively peaceful belief system, that’s a big issue,” says Mr Meade. “If we find who is responsible we’ll arrest them and charge them appropriately.”

Mr Meade says the Pakuranga man has a right to install signs and use his shop without fear of vandalism.

“We’ve got someone who just wants to get about his business and has a belief system. There’s no problem with that.

“We have an excellent and very proud tradition in this country of defending people’s right to worship and protest in such ways as they feel fit, so long as they’re not harming others and also within the bounds of seemliness.”

Auckland City police Asian liaison officer Jessica Phuang is looking into the incidents and says she can’t comment further, only that she’s unaware of similar incidents happening elsewhere in Auckland.

Mr Meade says police in the past have “come into conflict” with Chinese officialdom, because of the New Zealand Police’s refusal to do anything about peaceful Falun Gong protests.

“Also, as far as they’re concerned, the Falun Gong is not a legal organisation and therefore it doesn’t exist, whereas in New Zealand we recognise them,” says Mr Meade.

The Times made several attempts to seek an opinion from the Chinese Consulate General’s office in Greenlane.

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Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Howick and Pakuranga Times, New Zealand
Sep. 3, 2006
Nic Daley
www.times.co.nz

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday September 5, 2006.
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