Exiled leader admits battery

San Gabriel Valley Tribune/April 22, 2005
By Marshall Allen

Pasadena -- The exiled leader of a Chinese spiritual movement whose disciples have numbered in the millions pleaded no contest Friday to a misdemeanor charge of battering a housekeeper at his Pasadena home. Hongbao Zhang is the founder and "master' of Zhong Gong, a Chinese spiritual movement that had a reported 38 million adherents in 1990.

Zhang was arrested in March 2003 for the alleged beating of housekeeper Nan Fang He at his gated estate in Pasadena. The Pasadena police report on the incident described it as a "brutal beating' where Zhang choked the housekeeper and bashed her head against a chair.

Zhang was originally charged with four felonies in the case, including kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 14, according to the District Attorney's Office.

As a Chinese citizen living under special circumstances in the United States, a felony conviction could have led to Zhang's deportation back to China, according to officials from the District Attorney's Office.

In China, a warrant was issued in 2000, accusing Zhang of multiple rapes. It's possible that Zhang would be executed if he ever returned to the country, according to experts on the movement for democracy in China.

Zhang's supporters claim the Chinese government has fabricated charges against him because he is a powerful, anti- Communist leader. Zhang himself said the criminal charges against him in Pasadena were 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 through an interpreter in January 2004.

Founded in 1987, Zhong Gong is reportedly the largest of the traditional Chinese "qi qong' spiritual-wellness groups that use meditation and breathing exercises to promote holistic health. Falun Gong is another qi qong organization that's received attention since the Chinese government began persecuting the groups in 1999.

Powerful Washington figures, including then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., were among those who successfully lobbied government officials to offer Zhang asylum in 2001.

Zhang's arrest in Pasadena set off a string of civil lawsuits in the Chinese dissident community. Zhang's housekeeper filed a civil lawsuit against him related to the alleged beating.

The lawsuits included one filed by Qing Xin Yan, a woman who claims she was Zhang's domestic partner of 12 years, and that she was the second in command in his Zhong Gong movement.

Yan and Zhang became domestic partners in April 1989 and Zhang allegedly started "abusing, threatening and torturing (Yan) physically and emotionally' in August 1990, the complaint said.

In some cases, the complaint says that people witnessed the beatings, which have allegedly left Yan with permanent scars, injuries and emotional pain.

Yan didn't report the alleged beatings to the police because she believed "she was in the control of (Zhang) and she could never win fighting against him,' the complaint said. "(Zhang) is a very powerful man with millions of followers and billions of dollars at his disposal.'

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