CHICAGO, November 20, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) -- Falun Gong practitioners conduct peaceful appeals and meditate outside Chinese embassies and consulates every day around the world.It’s not every day they get beaten up for it.On November 13, 2002, Mr. Jiming Zheng pled guilty to battery in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago.Mr. Zheng testified that he had beaten Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Bill Fang on September 7 in front of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, and that a Mr. Yujun Weng had been his accomplice in the crime.Police had sent Mr. Fang to the emergency room for treatment after the incident.Mr. Zheng was sentenced to one year of supervision, and has been ordered by the court to stay away from Mr. Fang.Mr. Zheng’s accomplice, Mr. Weng, was arrested in the early morning of November 5 in Chicago's Chinatown. His case will go to court on December 5, 2002.Ties to Chinese Consulate -- "Something Very Shady Going On"According to Mr. Fang, F.B.I. officials who are investigating the case say Mr. Zheng denied all charges when he was first arrested in June 2002. The next day, however, two Chinese men visited Mr. Fang’s apartment to offer him $2,000 to drop the case. Their offer was later raised to $15,000. Both offers were refused.Mr. Fang says one of the men identified himself only as "Mr. Guo." The other man is often seen visiting the Chinese Consulate in Chicago.Chicago police have opened a case regarding the attempted bribe."It is obvious to us that there is something very shady going on here, and the Chinese Consulate in Chicago appears to be behind it," says Chicago-native and local Falun Gong practitioner Stephen Gregory, who has been involved with the case. "After all, how does a Chinese immigrant who, according to the police, has no job come to drive a new Mercedes-Benz, be in a position to offer a $15,000 bribe and have the means to hire Steven Weinsburg -- one of Chicago’s more expensive lawyers -- as his attorney? The defendants have known ties to the Chinese Consulate."A Violent AttackAt the beginning of September 2001, Chicago Falun Gong practitioners started a peaceful 10-day relay hunger strike appeal in front of the Chicago Chinese Consulate. The appeal was in response to news that at least five women had died in police custody in China under suspicious circumstances, with multiple accounts identifying torture and beatings as the cause of death.According to eyewitnesses, at 4:40 pm on September 7, three men driving a new black Mercedes-Benz SUV stopped in front of the Chinese Consulate. They got in and out of the car several times while cursing at the Falun Gong practitioners who were on hunger strike.Seeing this, Ms. Feng Lu, one of the practitioners on hunger strike, says she wanted to clarify the facts of the persecution to them and explain why they were conducting a hunger strike. She walked over to their car, handed flyers to them with information regarding the recent deaths in China and said, "I would like to give you some materials describing the persecution of Falun Gong. So many Chinese people were tortured to death simply because they practiced Falun Gong. You are also Chinese, doesn't this matter to you?"According to Ms. Lu, the three men began shouting at her: "Go back to China and die! I'll beat you! Don't you believe me?"Mr. Zheng then threatened to expose himself to Ms. Lu.Mr. Bill Fang, a practitioner of Falun Gong who witnessed the disturbance from across the street, took out his camera to photograph the scene. Mr. Zheng and Mr. Weng then jumped out of their vehicle and charged Mr. Fang. They beat Mr. Fang about the head and body, causing him to feel dizzy, have trouble breathing, and vomit.Witnesses say the two men then grabbed Mr. Fang’s camera and threw it to the ground, exposing part of the film.After destroying the camera, the two men rushed back to their car and sped away. As they left, seeing that Ms. Lu was recording the license plate number of their car, Mr. Zheng threatened her, "If you report us, I will kill you!"Two minutes later, policemen arrived at the scene. Mr. Fang had multiple injuries and bruises, and was sent to the emergency room for treatment.Ms. Lu says she received many threatening and harassing phone calls for many days afterwards.U.S. Officials, Citizens and Residents TargetedThe story of Ms. Lu, Mr. Fang and their attackers is not an isolated incident.Across the United States, what began in July, 1999 as a series of isolated incidents of intimidation, harassment and illegal activity on the part of Chinese officials and those working under their direction, has been uncovered as a targeted campaign against officials, citizens and residents who practice or support Falun Gong in the U.S. and other countries.Under the orders from China’s former Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, to "strengthen the campaign overseas," Chinese officials have employed economic ties at the national, state and city level, political pressure, and illicit means in an attempt to slander Falun Gong and undermine support for the practice in the U.S. As reported in a Wall Street Journal article on Feb. 21, 2002: "The Chinese government...has local U.S. officials to shun or even persecute right here in America. The approach...tends to combine gross disinformation with scare tactics and, in some cases, slyly implied diplomatic and commercial pressure."There have also been dozens of cases across the U.S. of citizens and residents being intimidated, harassed and physically attacked by Chinese consulate officials or those working for them.On October 22, 2000 in San Francisco's China Garden Park, for example, Mr. Sheng Mei was physically attacked by a mob of thugs while distributing Falun Gong literature. The assailants punched him repeatedly and shouted allegations about Falun Gong practitioners identical to those published in various Chinese government-controlled newspapers. The attack on Mr. Mei was part of a larger assault involving a group of 30-40 thugs believed to be hired by Chinese Consulate personnel.Further Ties to the Chinese Consulate"We know that Mr. Zheng’s accomplice, Mr. Weng, stayed at the office of the former "Chen Pao" newspaper until the early hours of the morning before he was arrested," stated Mr. Gregory. "This office is where the Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago is located. The Association is actually a small circle of people affiliated with the Chinese Consulate."Mr. Gregory explains, "The Chinese Consulate has held a number of what they call ‘denouncing Falun Gong’ meetings in this association's name, which are basically meetings where they get together and figure out ways to discredit and persecute those who practice Falun Gong here in Chicago. The officers of the Chinese Consulate often show up here. In fact, we know of at least one occasion when the Vice General Consul Wei-Lian Shen chaired such a meeting."Mr. Gregory concludes, "The connection between the Chinese consulate and these two men is not lost on us, nor anyone else looking into this case."Indeed, there are very strong ties between Chinese consulates and Chinese community associations throughout the country. Consulate officials have utilized these ties to rally the associations, and members of the Chinese community overall, against Falun Gong. On September 6, 2001, New York City’s Newsday newspaper ran an article exposing this activity: " Government officials have appeared at ‘seminars’ in Manhattan to decry , egging on local Chinese immigrants to oppose the movement. In one session, the consul-general told his audience that immigrants who have not become U.S. citizens were expected to obey Chinese laws, which ban Falun Gong. Further poisoning the atmosphere for local Falun Gong practitioners, powerful organizations in Chinatown -- which had expressed no concern about Falun Gong before the government crackdown started in July 1999 -- began holding countermarches against the group, their charges echoing the government's virulent accusations."Mr. Gregory says it makes him sad that things have come to this. "In China," Mr. Gregory explains, "Jiang’s regime can use the police to carry out the persecution of Falun Gong. That’s not really possible overseas, especially in free countries like the United States. So, they use these thugs instead. It is really a shame that some Chinese officials and policies have fallen so low under Jiang's dictatorship."