Tampa's Office of Human Rights (TOHR) mainly deals with housing and employment equal opportunity issues. On June 18, the biweekly board of director meeting of Office of Human Rights turned its attention to the other side of the globe when a group of concerned residents from the local community showed up and made a presentation on the Chinese communist regime's persecution of Falun Gong in China, as well as in the US.

The group included Mrs. Maureen Gamrecki, a senior manager of an international bank, her husband, and Mr. Kent McKinney and his wife. They all took a few hours from their professional jobs to bring their important issue to the board members.

Maureen Gamrecki said, "I am an average American citizen, I work for a living. I have taken time off from work this morning, to bring to your attention a very important issue related to human rights. I take seriously the privilege that I have to live in this country, to live in Florida, and to live in Tampa where my rights are protected to enjoy the freedoms of speech, of faith and peaceful assembly. I also enjoy the privilege of cultivating a meditation and exercise practice from ancient China, called Falun Gong or Falun Dafa."

She then described the persecution of Falun Gong in China since July 1999, when Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin outlawed Falun Gong. She pointed out that there are over 1000 labor camps in China and it is estimated that half are filled with Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Falun Gong practitioners were targeted as victims of these heinous crimes against humanity, including brutal torture and using Falun Gong practitioners as a source for organ harvesting.

"What does this have to do with Tampa? How can this impact someone in the US? How could this impact someone like me, an average American?" Maureen asked.She said, "I found out all too well how long the reach is of this totalitarian dictatorship, the Chinese communist regime. Less than one month ago, I was in Flushing NY with friends and experienced first hand the type of deception and lies the CCP employs to try to intimidate the Chinese people and threaten the freedoms of Americans. The CCP has hired secret agents and, what some of the press has referred to as "goons", to slander, attack and beat peaceful people who practice Falun Gong on the streets of Queens, NY. It is difficult sometimes for an average American, like myself, to understand the convoluted and deceptive methods of the CCP."

She pointed out that what is happening in Flushing reveals the tactics of the Chinese communist party, which is trying to divert the attention of the general public over its failure to respond efficiently to the Sichuan earthquake, and the corruption in the CCP which led to the collapse of many school buildings.

This time, the Chinese consulate agents jumped to the front line to organize direct physical and verbal attacks on Falun Gong. A mob of over 600 people, many of whom were paid by the Chinese consulate materialized on May 17th encircling and attacking, pushing, hitting the Falun Gong practitioners who were peacefully handing out flyers. They destroyed materials, smashed cameras, yelled and screamed slanderous hateful slogans.

The board members listened attentively to Maureen's speech. Many expressed that this kind of crime is unheard of in US. The board Director, Mr. Jake Slater asked whether there are similar incident in the US southeastern area.

Mr. Liu, from St. Petersburg said that there were several reported incidents in the last few years. One related to Mr. Peter Li, the technical manager of The Epoch Times newspaper, who was assaulted by several Asian people in his house. Peter Li was physically attacked and his computers were stolen. Also there was a report of a local lawyer's home being broken into. Strangely, no valuables were taken. Another incident was that the Beijing deputy director of China's national security Bureau, the counterpart of the US's FBI, came to Tampa to secretly survey Falun Gong's public practice site. They then threatened Mr. Liu through his parents to comply with their demands.

The board members were very concerned with the involvement of a foreign government on US soil. Mr. Jake Slater directed a board member representing law enforcement to monitor the development of the matter and offer any help Falun Gong practitioners may need.

Another board member said that she had heard about Falun Gong issue but did not realize the situation was so severe. She was very concerned with the situation and said she would help anyway that she could.