Chinese guru Zhang sues opponents

Charges of grand theft, fraud, extortion are among those alleged

Pasadena Star News/January 11, 2004
By Marshall Allen

Pasadena -- The dispute between Chinese spiritual guru Hong Bao Zhang, the housekeeper he is accused of assaulting and a group of prominent U.S.-based Chinese dissidents has reached the local courts as Zhang and his supporters filed another round of civil lawsuits.

The complaints include accusations including fraud, grand theft and extortion. One complaint alleges Zhang's housekeeper "maliciously punctured' the forehead of one of the guru's followers with a thorn, spoiling her chances for marriage.

Zhang, 50, of Pasadena, is the exiled founder of Zhong Gong, a Chinese spiritual wellness movement that once was reported to have as many as 38 million followers.

He was arrested in March for allegedly beating and falsely imprisoning his housekeeper, Nan Fang He, while his disciple Lisha Wu allegedly offered no assistance.

Zhang is awaiting trial on felony charges related to the case. If he is convicted, he could be deported to China where he faces criminal charges that could result in his execution, according to experts on the Chinese pro-democracy movement.

Wu's complaint alleges Nan Fang He punctured Wu's forehead while moving a plant at Zhang's Pasadena residence in September 2002. The facial injury "influence beauty directly,' Wu's complaint says. "I haven't married. It's easy to imagine the psychological pressure I endured.'

The guru and two of his followers, Wu and Li Wan, filed three lawsuits Dec. 10 and 11 in Pasadena Superior Court. An earlier lawsuit filed Aug. 6 by Zhang that included many of the same defendants has been dismissed.

Zhang's only opponent in the criminal case is Nan Fang He. But various Chinese dissidents may serve as witnesses in the case. Some of the dissidents have previously filed civil lawsuits against Zhang, and some say they plan to file more complaints against the guru. The dissidents include:

Qingxin Yan of Oakland who was Zhang's domestic partner for 12 years and was Zhong Gong's second in command until she left the movement in Sept. 2001.

Arthur Liu, Yan's husband, who was a student leader in the Tiananmen Square uprising and is now an attorney who's still active in the movement working to bring democracy to China. Liu is representing various dissidents in a separate lawsuit against Zhang.

Shengde Lian of Herndon, Va., a former student leader in the Tiananmen Square uprising and executive director of the Free China Movement, a coalition of about 30 organizations working to promote democracy in China.

Lian laughed when he heard about the latest lawsuits filed by the Zhang supporters and said he thinks they will also be dismissed because they are "frivolous.'

"This guy wants to manipulate the court system to make financial burdens against us, and to take time off our pro-democracy work,' Lian said.

Zhang's "defamatory' accusations, made in the complaints, will be used in future civil lawsuits against him, Lian said. Zhang's allegations which Lian said are false include saying that Yan was a special agent in the Chinese Army, and that Lian helped Yan steal $2.7 million from Zhong Gong. The complaints also wrongly assert that Lian was removed from his position as executive director of the Free China Movement, Lian said.

Zhang is using the lawsuits to divert attention from his own troubles and intimidate people who could oppose him, Lian said.

Zhang did not return calls for comment, but during his preliminary hearing in December he said that he had had 16 lawsuits filed against him since his arrest.

"I can only say that the Chinese government keeps on persecuting me,' he said through a Mandarin interpreter.

Zhang said the criminal charges against him are also the result of a plot by the Communist Chinese government.

"I was considered a potential political leader of the country, so they use every trick to persecute me,' he said at the time.

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