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Victims of persecution in China say they have been attacked for their beliefs here in the United States. Falun Gong practitioners in San Francisco are urging local police to investigate the incident they say is an extension of the Chinese regime's persecution of the spiritual practice.
The attack took place just past noon on Sunday June 10th. An elderly Chinese man strikes a young man in San Francisco's Chinatown, and now there are calls for this attack to be investigated as a hate crime.
The victim, Derek Wong, is a Falun Gong practitioner. He was in Chinatown handing out information on the Chinese regime's persecution of the spiritual practice.
Derek says that's when the elderly man started to approach him and others, cursing at them. The man became more agitated when Derek started to record what was happening.
[Derek Wong, Falun Gong Practitioner]:
"Then he pushed me, I said 'This is the United States, you can't use violence.' He replied, 'What if I do?' Many people were recording this by now, we caught him taking a swing at me, hitting me here."
Another Falun Gong practitioner, Ms Wong, then tried to stop the elderly man from leaving as witnesses called 911. Another man wearing a red shirt urged the older man to leave, and struck Ms Wong in the process.
Both Derek and Ms Wong were former victims of persecution in China, where the ruling Communist Party has carried out a systematic campaign against Falun Gong since 1999.
New York-based lawyer Yeh Ning say the San Francisco attack has elements of a hate crime, where Falun Gong practitioners are singled out.
[Ye Ning, New York Lawyer]:
"This attack targets a group of people because of their belief. In the United States, if you attack an individual or their belongings because of their belief, it's regarded as a hate crime. This incident in San Francisco does not appear to be a simple act of violence. There was no motive, aside from hate."
Falun Gong practitioners in San Francisco say this is not the first time the group has been targeted by other Chinese nationals. They suspect the attacks are coordinated by the local Chinese consulate as part of its persecution campaign, and want San Francisco authorities to conduct a full investigation.