San Francisco judge to decide on Falun Gong lawsuit
Group alleges city discrimination
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
February 13, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Members of a spiritual practice
banned in China will find out Wednesday if their claims that San
Francisco is funding a discriminatory parade have any merit.
Falun Gong practitioners in the city claim in a lawsuit that
they have consistently been denied entry into the annual Chinese
New Year parade based on religious and political discrimination.
The group claims that the use of city funds and resources for
the popular event implicates the city.
The city attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the case based
on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that defends the right of parade
organizers to include or exclude whoever they choose.
The case -- Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual
Group of Boston -- sets a precedent that allows a private association
to run a parade however they choose, according to Matt Dorsey
with the city attorney's office.
But lawyers for Falun Gong say private associations become public
entities once they receive public monies. They are asking for
the city to divest in the parade, much like it divested in Apartheid
and Sudanese interests.
"It would be an important indicator that the city stands
behind a commitment to tolerance and acceptance," said Morton
Sklar, an attorney for Falun Gang and the executive director of
World Organization for Human Rights USA.
Falun Gong organizer Sherry Zhang described the practice as an
ancient Chinese meditation and self-improvement art that resurfaced
a little over a decade ago in Mainland China.
The practice became popular virtually overnight, which attracted
the attention and ire of the country's leaders. It was soon banned
and thousands of practitioners were tortured and jailed for their
beliefs, Zhan said.
"The Chinese consular general sits on the Chinese chamber
of commerce," Zhan said.
"They want to create the image that Falun Gong is not accepted
around the world when in fact there are over 100 million followers.
They're basically trying to repress Falun Gong everywhere."
Falun Gong has already been denied a spot in this year's March
3 parade. In the past, the group was allowed to march behind the
parade or plan their own demonstrations.
"Our goal with the lawsuit is not to punish the city, we
just don't want them to use taxpayer money for something The city
has the power to ask the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to correct,"
Superior Court Judge Patrick Mahoney is expected to announce
whether the case will be thrown out or not on Wednesday at 9:30
a.m. in department 302.
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