Exiled Chinese sect guru facing new civil lawsuit

San Gabriel Valley Tribune/July 13, 2003
By Marshall Allen

Pasadena -- A civil lawsuit alleging domestic violence, false imprisonment and other abuses has been filed against the exiled leader of a Chinese spiritual movement whose disciples have numbered in the millions.

Hong Bao Zhang, 49, is being sued 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. Zhang is the founder and "master' of the movement that has claimed up to 40 million followers, according to experts in the China democracy movement.

Zhong Gong is reportedly the largest of the traditional Chinese "qi qong' organizations spiritual wellness groups that use meditation and breathing exercises to promote holistic health.

Yan now lives in Alameda County, where she runs the Chinese Federation Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes democracy and human rights in China, said her Oakland-based lawyer, Arthur Liu.

Yan's lawsuit seeks $23 million in general and punitive damages. The amount is high because the case also includes an alleged breach of contract, Liu said. The complaint says Zhang agreed to pay Yan her share of the tens and millions of dollars they made together.

"She was so instrumental in his success, she managed his businesses, she was the second- highest person in Zhong Gong,' Liu said.

Yan is the second woman to recently accuse Zhang of physical and emotional abuse. He faces four felony charges for allegedly beating and imprisoning his housekeeper and personal assistant, Nan Fang He, 49, March 15 at his northeast Pasadena home. She also has filed a civil lawsuit against Zhang.

Zhang was arrested March 15 by Pasadena police and booked on felony charges stemming from the alleged beating. He was freed on $100,000 bond, and has a hearing scheduled for July 22 in Pasadena Superior Court.

Because of Zhang's immigration status, experts say a felony conviction could lead to Zhang's deportation to China, where he could be executed for crimes he allegedly committed there.

Zhang's criminal attorney, Mark Geragos, said there's "no truth' to the criminal charges against Zhang.

"I don't know of any accusation that's ever been proven that he's got any violent nature at all,' Geragos said.

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.

Liu said he has videotapes and pictures showing bruises and injuries to Yan's body after an alleged beating in Washington, D.C.

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.'

Yan has now reported the beatings to the Pasadena Police Department and has been interviewed by a detective, Liu said.

Zhang has allegedly made, and continues to make death threats to Yan, Liu said.

"She's traumatized, she can't sleep at night, she's fearful,' Liu said.

Attorney Matt Geragos, Mark Geragos' brother who represents Zhang in the civil cases, said he hasn't seen the Yan lawsuit, but he denies any alleged violence by his client.

"My view is that because of his popularity they find him to be an easy target,' Matt Geragos said. "He's going to defend all of (the charges).'

According to Yan's complaint, filed June 26 in Pasadena Superior Court, Zhong Gong had numerous successful business ventures including hospitals, factories, travel agencies and universities.

Liu said Zhong Gong has provided Zhang with "billions and billions of dollars' worth of assets all over the world.'

In 1999, the Chinese government started putting Zhong Gong followers in labor camps or prisons, so Zhang and Yan eventually fled, the complaint said. Yan obtained political asylum in the United States in July 2000 and Zhang obtained asylum in April 2001, according to the complaint. Powerful Washington figures, including Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Jesse Helms, R-N.C., were among those who successfully lobbied to offer Zhang asylum.

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