February 16, 2006 Thursday
A home invasion and attack near Duluth a week ago has set off a political firestorm that may reach all the way to China.
Peter Yuan Li said he was tied up and beaten in his Chatburn Way home by several men on Feb. 8. The men spoke Korean and Mandarin and left behind certain valuables, including a camcorder and television, but took his computers, a phone and his wallet, according to Li. They also demanded unspecified documents and pried open two file cabinets, he said.
But Li claims it was no ordinary robbery. The culprits, he said, were Chinese agents who targeted him because of his work with The Epoch Times international newspaper and its Internet site, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
The Chinese government has brutally clamped down on Falun Gong practices and branded it a [Chinese Communist regime's slanderous words]. Li, a practitioner of Falun Gong, said the newspaper is highly critical of China's communist government and its dismal human rights record.
"It was a warning," said the China-born Li, 41, who moved to the United States in 1987 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. "They did this because of the work I do promoting human rights."
The FBI is looking into the incident for possible civil rights violations, but a spokesman declined to say whether the Chinese government might be involved. The attack is still under investigation by the Fulton County Police Department.
Li, though, has no doubt who is behind the attack.
Li's ordeal began a week ago, while he was at the home he shares with his wife and two children. Between 11 a.m. and noon, he said, someone knocked on his door and a man said it was a water delivery. Li said he hadn't ordered water but when he opened the door another man, who was hidden, jumped out and the two pushed him back into his house. His attackers had a knife and a gun.
He was knocked to the floor, blindfolded and covered with a quilt. "I was scared," Li said as he recalled the terrifying morning. "They were strong. I couldn't breathe. I became weak and they started to beat me."
They used duct tape to cover his mouth and tied him up. At one point, he said, one or two other men came in the house. One, Li said, spoke Chinese and asked him about the location of a safe. Li said he doesn't have a safe, but could hear them searching through his file cabinets.
He said relatives who still live in China also have been harassed. Li doesn't ask them about details for fear it might make their situation worse, but his family has told him they think he's "taking the right course and they support me."
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based press freedom group, has seen attacks on Falun Gong members in South Africa, Hong Kong and Australia, but said the one in metro Atlanta might be the most serious yet.
"We are definitely intrigued by the circumstances in which the attack occurred," said Lucie Morillon, the Washington representative.
Annette Guo Jun, a chief editor of the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times who lives in Maryland, said in a telephone interview that Li had worked for the publication for several years.
Speaking through an interpreter, Jun said she "felt shocked at how the communist people can attack Falun Gong practitioners on U.S. soil."
Her son, Rocky Liao, who served as her interpreter, said they both were worried about their own safety "since we don't know what they're going to do next. The communists are trying to intimidate Falun Gong practitioners and also people they dislike in the U.S. In China, they control the entire media."
In fact, several U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc., have come under intense criticism for agreeing to China's demands to censor Internet content in return for entrance into the lucrative Chinese market.
The Associated Press and Dow Jones News Service contributed to this article.
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