New York Federal Court Decides in Favor of Falun Gong
(Minghui.org) Editor’s note: This article describes a New York Federal Court case involving Falun Gong practitioners as plaintiffs, charging individuals and an organization with apparent ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong with crimes targeting the practitioners. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss all federal claims. The case was decided in favor of the Falun Gong practitioner plaintiffs.
The article begins by listing related cases used as precedent for the case recently decided.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan forced travelers from their car, held them at bay with firearms, and amidst threats of murder clubbed them inflicting serious bodily injury based solely on their mistaken belief that they were civil rights workers. Griffin v. Breckenridge, U.S 88. 101.
Members of the China Anti-Cult World Alliance threaten “to kill” and “dig out [the] hearts, livers and lungs” of travelers, assault intimidate and call for a violent persecutory campaign, i.e., a douzheng against them based solely on their belief that they are practitioners of Falun Gong. Zhang et al. v. CACWA et al.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a favorable ruling for Plaintiffs today by dismissing Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in its entirety, based on the well-reasoned Report and Recommendation issued by the Magistrate Judge on January 28, 2016. The case was filed by Plaintiffs on March 3, 2015 against Defendants Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance (“CACWA”), its co-chairs Michael Chu (“Chu”) and Li Huahong (“Huahong”), and two of its supporters, Wan Hongjuan (“Hongjuan”) and Zhu Zirou (“Zirou”). Plaintiffs practice the Falun Gong religion or have been mistakenly identified as practitioners of Falun Gong.
The Complaint alleges several federal claims that are analogous to those in such other landmark civil rights cases as Macedonia Baptist Church v. Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Invisible Empire Inc. et al (Civil Action No. 96-CP-14-217) (where Plaintiffs were awarded twenty-four (24) million dollars in damages due to the intentional burning of their church by the KKK); and Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 101 (1971) (where members of the KKK forced travelers from their car, held them at bay with firearms, and, amidst threats of murder, clubbed them, inflicting serious bodily injury based solely on their mistaken belief that they were civil rights workers.)
First, it alleges violations of 18 U.S.C. § 248 of U.S. federal law through Defendants’ direct interference with Plaintiffs’ exercise of their right to religious freedom at a Spiritual Center and affiliated sites in Flushing, New York; (2) second, it alleges violations of Plaintiffs’ right to travel within the communities of Flushing to distribute Falun Gong religious materials or participate in parades and other legally permitted activities under the deprivation clause of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); and (3) third, it alleges violations of the hindrance clause of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) through Defendants’ attempts to hinder state authorities from protecting the rights of Falun Gong believers and other individuals mistaken for Falun Gong practitioners. The Complaint additionally alleges several facts that imply a close alliance between the CACWA and anti-Falun Gong elements in China.
On June 5, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss all federal claims. On July 21, 2015, Plaintiffs filed opposing papers. After the filing of additional materials and a hearing, the Magistrate Judge filed its January 28, 2016 Report and Recommendation denying Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in its entirety.
According to the Report and Recommendation that the District Court Judge adopted on March 22, 2016, Plaintiffs’ allegations plausibly demonstrate that the Defendants violated § 248 of U.S. federal law, the Deprivation Clause of § 1985(3), and the Hindrance Clauses of § 1985(3). As part of its opinion, the Court concluded that Plaintiffs’ allegations under § 248 were well pled, and, on that basis, found that:
- Falun Gong is a religion; Falun Gong believers engage in religious observance at a Spiritual Center in Flushing as well as at five associated sites.- Plaintiffs’ Complaint details numerous incidents in which the individual Defendants attacked, threatened or attempted to intimidate Plaintiffs while they were lawfully exercising their rights of religious freedom at or in the vicinity of Falun Gong spiritual sites in Flushing.- These and other well-pled facts, if true, have established the Defendants violated Plaintiffs rights to religious freedoms under § 248 (also referred to as FACE).
As part of its analyses under the Deprivation Clause, the opinion found:
- In light of no less than twenty-five alleged physical and/or verbal attacks on Falun Gong believers or persons perceived to be Falun Gong practitioners, the CACWA incorporation and mission statement, affiliation with several Party-backed groups intent on suppressing the practice of Falun Gong in the United States, and the publication of materials distributed by the CACWA threatening the eradication and violent suppression of Falun Gong, Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that Defendants conspired to deprive Plaintiffs of their right to freedom of travel within the State of New York.- Frequent threats “to kill” and “dig out [the] hearts, livers and lungs” of Falun Gong practitioners, and the call for a douzheng campaign against Falun Gong, if true, describe religious-based animus sufficient to pursue a claim under the Deprivation Clause.
As part of its analysis under the Hindrance Clause, the opinion also found:
- Plaintiffs allege, in detail, several incidents involving Defendants’ attempts to hinder State authorities from protecting the civil rights of Falun Gong believers and other individuals mistaken for Falun Gong practitioners based on their Chinese ethnicity and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party or similar factors.- Based on Defendants’ alleged conduct, Plaintiffs could reasonably believe their presence in Flushing could result in an improper police detainment or that police officers might disregard their requests for assistance.- Bearing in mind Defendant Hongjuan’s claim of undue influence of the CACWA over the NYPD and CACWA’s publication of a photo of Plaintiff Hexiang in handcuffs on a CACWA affiliated website, it can be reasonably inferred that Defendants conspired to hinder state authorities in order to aid their overall objective of stemming the practice and purging its existence from Flushing.
The Court’s findings were based on analogies drawn by Plaintiffs with several other landmark civil rights cases.
In light of the plethora of videos, pictures, recordings, and other documentary evidence, the Court’s Decision is significant as it is more likely than not that Plaintiffs will prevail with these (and other) claims at trial.