Who Hates John Liu?

Our John Liu coverage, like the Liu coverage elsewhere, draws an unusual level of commenter vitriol.

Sometimes the commenters mention the fact that Liu’s father was convicted for bank fraud. Usually the criticism of Liu, a councilmember from Queens who was born in Taiwan, is less specific, and amounts to name-calling.

Many of the anti-Liu comments sound alike, and seem to stem from an ongoing conflict taking place far from City Hall.

The criticisms are similar in spirit, at least, to the stories about Liu that appear frequently in The Epoch Times, a free newspaper that was founded in 2000 by practitioners of Falun Gong in New York. It is a professional-looking broadsheet that is widely available in Flushing and throughout the city. It is not, in any way that would be apparent to a casual reader, associated with Falun Gong.

It is run by people who do not like John Liu at all.

Headlines in the Manhattan-based weekly include, “Flushing Politician Helping ‘a tyrant do evil’ Says Critic” and “Taiwanese New York Politicians Appear Not Interested During U.S. Taiwan Policy Discussion.”

Falun Gong is a China-based spritual movement which has been the target of a repression campaign by the Chinese government for the last decade. (Their U.S.A. web site is here.)

In New York, Falun Gong periodically organizes theatrical demonstrations in Union Square Park and other large outdoor settings to draw the attention of passersby to the unpleasant details of the Chinese crackdown. The demonstrations, here and elsewhere, aren’t generally billed as such: they are advertised as celebrations–“Chinese New Year Spectacular,” for example–although they turn out in part to be depictions of torture and brutality. 

Some Falun Gong practitioners staged a protest in July 2008 on the streets of Flushing, in John Liu’s district. The event resulted in some kind of confrontation between the demonstrators and local residents, the result of which was that Falun Gong, according to the Epoch Times‘ coverage, accused its critics of being “sympathetic” to the “Chinese Communist Party” and of harassing them.

According to the Epoch Times report, Liu met with the Falun Gong members, but ended up siding with the local residents who were criticizing the group. In the eyes of the Falun Gong, Liu was effectively siding with the Chinese Communist Party and was no different, morally.

(A reporter at the Epoch Times I spoke to said the paper is not directly affiliated with Falun Gong–Wikipedia suggests that this is cutting things a bit fine–and said he had lots of other damaging information about Liu, and spoke as if it were all common knowledge. )

Here’s an unusually detailed comment referring to the incident, posted on April 15, 2009 on a Daily Politics post, from someone writing under the name “Don’tHateMeLoveMe.”

This person wrote, “Victims of the attacks in Flushing had tried multiple times to meet with Council Member John Liu and State Assemblywoman Ellen Young, yet were unsuccessful. It was later discovered that Liu and Young had been instead meeting with the people who had allegedly attacked Falun Gong practitioners in Flushing.”

Don’tHateMeLoveMe goes on to say, “Falun Gong practitioners had shown up at Liu’s office in hopes of presenting their cases and asking Liu for support. Liu then kicked the Falun Gong practitioners out of his office, and is recorded saying, “Bye! Bye! Bye!” as he does so. TAKE FROM ME, John Liu told me in my face he had no response for me and he is a small nasty man. Dont’ trust this shithead.”

The meeting between Liu and the Falun Gong members happened around the time Liu’s former aide, Assemblywoman Ellen Young, was gearing up for what would be her first re-election campaign.

Young, for a number of reasons, lost her race that year to Grace Meng (daughter of the Assemblyman who immediately preceded Young). The relentless, sensationally negative coverage in the Epoch Times did not help Young’s efforts.

Meng, for her part, has kept herself out of the Falun Gong cross-hairs and presented herself carefully as an assemblywoman who happens to be Asian, not an ambassador to the Asian masses.

The strategy has worked: The Epoch Times has only mentioned Meng in three stories that I could find.

Liu, for his part, accepts the fact that there is a group of people who dislike him intensely and vocally.

At the kick-off event for his city comptroller bid on the steps of City Hall, Liu spotted a bunch of banner-waving anti-Liu protesters just outside the gates. Surrounded by a few reporters and well-wishers, Liu calmly gestured toward them, smiling, and explained that they were his “friends” who follow him “everywhere.”

Liu’s campaign did not wish to comment for this story.

Who Hates John Liu?