Zhang preliminary hearing begins

Pasadena Star News/December 9, 2003
By Marshall Allen

Pasadena -- A Chinese spiritual guru accused of punching and kicking his housekeeper and slamming her head against a sofa heard her tearful testimony about the ordeal during a preliminary hearing that began Tuesday.

Nan Fang He, 49, cried as she described the extensive beating she allegedly received at the hands of Hong Bao Zhang, 49, founder of the Zhong Gong spiritual movement. Zhong Gong was founded in China in 1987 and has reportedly had as many as 38 million followers.

Zhang has been charged with four felonies in the case, including assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in state prison if convicted of all counts against him.

He is currently free on $100,000 bond, but his immigration status in the United States could also be at risk. Zhang has been living in the country under special circumstances since April 2001, after Chinese dissidents and U.S. political leaders like Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Jesse Helms, R-N.C., rallied to support him.

If convicted of a felony, Zhang could be deported to China where he would "certainly be executed,' according to John Kusumi, executive director of the China Support Network, a Connecticut-based organization that supports the Chinese democracy movement.

In June 2000, the Chinese government issued a warrant for Zhang's arrest, accusing him of raping numerous women. Dissidents say they are unsure if the Chinese government's accusations against Zhang are credible. It is possible he is being unjustly persecuted because the government is trying to eliminate organizations like Zhong Gong.

Zhang's attorney Mark Geragos whose current clients also include pop music superstar Michael Jackson and accused murderer Scott Peterson said he would not comment on the case until the preliminary hearing concludes today.

In Pasadena Superior Court on Tuesday, He, speaking through a Mandarin interpreter, testified that she had worked in Zhang's Pasadena home from June 2001 until March 15, when the alleged assault took place. She said the beating began after Zhang became angry with her because he believed she was mismanaging workers who were doing construction on the home, which is located in the 4000 block of Park Vista Drive in Pasadena.

She testified that Zhang cursed and then hit her.

"I said, 'What you're doing is inappropriate,' ' He testified. " 'It's illegal to hit people in the United States.' '

He testified that Zhang then knocked her to the marble floor and dragged her by her hair and clothes into his bedroom, where he continued to punch her in the face and kick her. When she screamed, Zhang choked her and said: "If you cry any more, I'm going to kill you,' she testified.

As the beating continued, Zhang grabbed her head and banged it onto the wooden leg of a sofa, she said.

He estimated that she was in the room with Zhang for about an hour. Then the spiritual leader told her he would kill her if she moved, and left to get something to eat, she said. When Zhang returned about 15 minutes later, she negotiated her way out of the room by saying she was hungry, then escaped when someone came to the door to make a delivery, she said.

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