By Howard Koplowitz
Several hundred Falung Gong followers and supporters shut down a stretch of a Flushing street Saturday as they protested what they contend is China’s unjust killing, torture and imprisonment of the group’s members in the last decade.
Speakers at the peaceful protest marked the 10th anniversary of a Falun Gong gathering in Beijing, where the group’s followers demonstrated to explain to the Chinese leadership how the movement bettered their lives but were attacked by government officials.
The entire protest was conducted in Chinese and organizers said remarks at the demonstration would not be translated into English.
A Flushing resident who watched the protest said he was not a Falun Gong follower, but believed in the group’s right to carry out its activities in China.
“They have a right to express their own opinion, [but] they’re being persecuted in China,” said the resident, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Wei.
In China, Wei said, “they don’t take them to court, they take them to jail.”
Wei, who came to the United States 10 years ago as a student and now works for a Flushing tea company, said he has two friends who are Falun Gong followers.
“They are very good people here,” he said of the movement’s members.
According to the protest’s organizers, 3,200 Falun Gong followers have been killed in China over the past decade. They said 87,000 have been tortured in police custody and roughly 1 million have been imprisoned in Chinese labor camps and prisons.
The organizers said China’s communist party “launched an unlawful campaign of arrests, violence and propaganda with the intent of eradicating Falun Gong” in July 1999.
They described Falun Gong as a “traditional Buddhistâˆ’style practice with roots in the Chinese heritage of cultivating the mindâ„body for health and spiritual growth.”
The protest did not draw a large number of spectators, who stood by police barricades for long periods of time. Most passersâˆ’by continued on their way.
A 109th Precinct community affairs officer said there were “absolutely no incidents” during the demonstration.
A stretch of 41st Avenue between Sanford Avenue and Kissena Boulevard was closed between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday for the protest.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 173.