Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance

Decision Date23 April 2018
Docket NumberNO. 15–CV–1046,15–CV–1046
Citation311 F.Supp.3d 514
Parties ZHANG JINGRONG, Zhou Yanhua, Zhang Peng, Zhang Cuiping, Wei Min, Lo Kitsuen, Cao, Lijun, Hu Yang, Guo Xiaofang, Gao Jinying, Cui Lina, Xu Ting, Bian Hexiang, Plaintiffs, v. CHINESE ANTI–CULT WORLD ALLIANCE (CACWA), Michael Chu, Li Huahong, Wan Hongjuan, Zhu Zirou, and Does 1–5 Inclusive, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

Terri Ellen Marsh, Human Rights Law Foundation, 1875 K Street NW Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20006, (202) 697–3858, Joshua S. Moskovitz, Bernstein Clarke & Moskovitz PLLC, 11 Park Place, Suite 914, New York, New York 10007, (212) 321–0087, Jonathan C. Moore, Keith M. Szczepanski, Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, 99 Park Avenue, PH/26th Floor, New York, New York 10016, (212) 490–0400, for Zhang Jingrong, Zhou Yanhua, Zhang Peng, Zhang Cuiping, Wei Min, Lo Kitsuen, Cao, Lijun, Hu Yang, Guo Xiaofang, Gao Jinying, Cui Lina, Xu Ting, and Bian Hexiang.

Tom M. Fini, Jacques Catafago, Esq., Catafago Fini LLP, The Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7412, New York, NY 10118, 212–239–9669, Edmond W. Wong, Esq., Law Office of Edmond W. Wong, 35–10 Farrington Street, Flushing, NY 11354, 718–886–3188, for Chinese Anti–Cult World Alliance (CACWA), Michael CHU, Li Huahong, Zhu Zirou.

Edmond W. Wong, Esq., Law Office of Edmond W. Wong 35–10 Farrington Street, Flushing, NY 11354, 718–886–3188, for Wan Hongjuan.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS', DEFENDANTS', AND COURT'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Jack B. Weinstein, Senior United States District JudgeTable of Contents

VI. Appendix A: Map of Sites of the Alleged Incidents...566
VII. Appendix B: Pictures of Sites of the Alleged Incidents...567
I. Introduction
A. Background

Plaintiffs are members of a group, Falun Gong, developed in the second half of the twentieth century in China. The People's Republic of China ("Chinese Government"), it is alleged, has acted to suppress this group in both China and abroad, including in the United States; it deems it a threat to the hegemony of the Chinese State and Communist Party. See, e.g. , Pitman B. Potter, Belief in Control: Regulation of Religion in China , 174 The China Q. 317, 323, 331–32 (2003); Fenggang Yang, The Red, Black, and Gray Markets of Religion in China , 47 The Soc. Q. 93, 110–13 (2006).

Adherents of Falun Gong live in the United States. Some are citizens of this country. It is contended by them as plaintiffs that the Chinese Government has conspired with individuals to harm followers and suppress Falun Gong in the United States by organizing and encouraging the Chinese Anti–Cult World Alliance ("CACWA") and individuals to inflict injuries on those who follow Falun Gong.

Defendants oppose Falun Gong in Flushing, Queens, New York, and elsewhere. They deny that Falun Gong is a religion. Following the position of the Chinese Government, their opposition is based upon characterizing Falun Gong as a "cult" indoctrinating its followers with beliefs that are dangerous, unscientific, and offensive.

Plaintiffs' claims require a showing, for the purposes of this litigation, that Falun Gong is a religion and that defendants obstructed the right of its adherents to practice this religion at places of religious worship.

In China, and in the United States, anti-Falun Gongists define Falun Gong as a "cult" that challenges the authority of the ruling Communist Party and Chinese Government. See Anne S. Y. Cheung, In Search of a Theory of Cult and Freedom of Religion in China: The Case of Falun Gong , 13 Pac. Rim L. & Pol'y J. 1 (2004).

The history and tradition in American constitutional law and the beliefs of most of the population of the United States mandates a finding that Falun Gong is a religion for only purposes of standing and applicable substantive law in the present case. "Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution." United States v. Ballard , 322 U.S. 78, 86, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148 (1944).

The court defines Falun Gong as a religion for purposes of this litigation. See infra Sections III(B), IV(A). The court makes no ruling on the religious nature of Falun Gong for general theological purposes. The parties' post-summary judgment hearing submissions seeking a definition of Falun Gong as a religion or non-religion for purposes outside this litigation are not persuasive. See Plts.' Post–Hr'g Br. at 1–10, ECF No. 145; Defs.' Post Hr'g Br. at 1–3, 7–10, ECF No. 146.

Plaintiffs proselytize their religion and protest the Chinese Government's opposition to it on Main Street in Flushing, Queens, near what they consider to be one of their temples. See Appendixes A & B (map and pictures of area). The Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act protects plaintiffs "lawfully exercising ... [their] First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship ." 18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(2) (emphasis added). This statute is inclusive of all lawful religious practices and of all places it is practiced. Any place a religion is practiced—be it in underneath a tree, in a meadow, or at a folding table on the streets of a busy city—is protected by this and other statutes and the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution. A contrary reading would render the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act unconstitutional since it would discriminate between religions that use formal temples and those that do not.

Plaintiffs set up their tables in a heavily pedestrian-traveled area in Queens. See Summary Judgment Hearing Transcript ("Hr'g Tr.") 251:5–253:10 (April 4, 2018 & April 11, 2018). There they proselytize for the Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. See id. As noted above, for purposes of this litigation, Falun Gong is properly characterized as a religion under the Federal Constitution and federal and state statutes and cases. See infra Sections III(B), IV(A). Its adherents verbally and with hand-outs, signs, and literature attacked the Chinese Government politically for, among other things, harvesting human organs. Hr'g Tr. 265:15–266:6.

Defendants, following the Chinese Government's position, allegedly verbally and physically attacked plaintiffs at their tables, and referred to Falun Gong as a "cult," dangerous to its adherents and others. See infra Section II(C). Defendants claim plaintiffs attacked them physically.

At times the debates became loud, spirited, and robust, with occasional striking out and hitting, but with no appreciable physical harm to any person. Id. Since the instant case was brought, physical confrontations have subsided. See Hr'g Tr. 156:24–157:10. The parties appear to have reached a modus vivendi . The New York police are well in control of the situation. See id.

B. Motions and Claims

A motion to dismiss on the pleadings has been denied. See Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti–Cult World All. , 287 F.Supp.3d 290 (E.D.N.Y. 2018).

Both parties now move for summary judgment. Plaintiffs seek dismissal of defendants' counterclaims. Defendants seek dismissal of several of plaintiffs' causes of action. The court sua sponte moved for partial summary judgment after providing notice in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f). See Mar. 26, 2018 Order, ECF No. 130.

The court does not contemplate granting injunctive relief because the violence has abated and the police are in control. See supra Section I(A). An injunction might complicate appropriate police action. The case will proceed to a jury trial on the issues of liability and damages.

A full evidentiary hearing was provided on the motions for summary judgment. See Hr'g Tr. The motions for summary judgment are decided as follows:

(1) Assault and battery: this is a simple New York State common law based claim. It is amply supported by the allegations and evidence. It will be tried by a jury.
(2) Bias related violence and intimidation ( New York Civil Rights Law § 79–n ): this statute is applicable by its language to plaintiffs' complaint. It will be tried by a jury.
(3) Conspiracy to violate civil rights ( 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) ): the magistrate judge's report and recommendation
...

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  • Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance, 15–CV–1046
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    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • May 30, 2018
    ...under the umbrella of the Chinese Anti–Cult World Alliance. See Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti–Cult World All. ("Zhang I") , No. 15-CV-1046, 311 F.Supp.3d 514, 2018 WL 1916617, at *1–14 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 23, 2018). The People's Republic of China ("Chinese Government") has allegedly suppressed ......
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    ...a qualifying "place of religious worship" and denying Defendants’ corresponding motion. Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti-Cult World All. , 311 F. Supp. 3d 514, 522, 553-55 (E.D.N.Y. 2018) (" Zhang I ").7 The district court further ruled that, to avoid effecting a preference for certain religi......
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