The Chinese Tourist Zhao Yan
First, the photos and the injury assessment: " ... both of her eyes were nearly swollen shut, that she had a large swollen area on the front of her forehead, that she had bruises around the eyes, and that she had a contusion high up on her forehead. She also complained of a scraped knee."
What happened to this woman? Was she the victim of domestic violence? Was she in a train wreck? Was she the victim of a mugging?
The name of woman is Zhao Yan (趙燕). She is a 37-year-old woman who runs a fitness equipment company in the city of Tianjin, China. She entered the United States on July 12, 2004 on a business visa to attend meetings. On July 21, 2004, Zhao Yan and two other Chinese women decided to take a two-day tour package trip to see the Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border. This is one of the natural wonders of the world. The three were taking pictures at the Rainbow Bridge when US Homeland Security officers asked them to enter the inspection station.
As Zhao approached, a US Homeland Security officer later identified as Officer Robert Rhodes grabbed her. According to eyewitnesses, Rhodes sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her against a wall, kneed her in the head as she knelt on the ground and struck her head on the ground while holding her hair. Other US Homeland Security officers joined him. Zhao said she told the officers she had legal documents, including a passport and visa, but they did not stop beating her.
"I didn't think the police would assault me. But they kept kicking me, unstrapped my underwear and sprayed me with pepper-spray. My nose was bleeding very badly," said Ms Zhao, who had bruises all over her face and body. She suffered a temporary loss of sight in her left eye as a result of the strong pepper spray. "I felt deeply humiliated. I have been to many countries, but the US is the most brutal place," she said.
The more detailed version: The police officer first applied pepper spray at my eyes. Then he grabbed my hair. By reflex, I got down on the ground. Then he kicked me with his leather shoes. Another three of four police officers came along and they also kicked me. After kicking me down, they handcuffed me behind my back and threw me into a small room. I thought I couldn't take it and that I was going to die. My nose was bleeding and my eyes hurt a lot. I couldn't see anything. They opened up my underwear. My English is not good. I tried to explain that I was a tourist. I begged them for a Chinese translator. Nobody paid me any attention. Later, a female police officer took pity on me and helped to wash my eyes out with water. He kept hitting me and kicking me. My mobile phone and my camera were all wrecked. I kept telling him that I had a passport and a plane ticket in my bag. Finally, one of them looked at the passport and then they discovered that it was a misunderstanding. Then they realized that this was a serious situation. They called in the doctor and sent me to the hospital."：“警察先是拿辣椒水喷我的眼睛，然后就揪我的头发。我下意识地蹲下，他就开始用皮鞋踢我，这时又来了三、四个警察，他们同时都用脚踢我，他们把我踢倒后，再把我的手背过去用手铐铐上，推进一个小房间。当时我真觉得我实在受不了了，要死了。我的鼻子被踢出了血、眼睛很痛，什么也看不见，内衣也被人家解开了。我的英文不好，可是也尽量说明我的游客身分，要求他们找中文翻译，可是没人理我。后来，一名女警察看我实在可怜，就用水帮我洗眼睛，连脖子上都是辣椒水，连续冲洗后才稍有缓解。他们狠命地打我、踢我，我的手机、相机全都摔坏了。我不断告诉他们我的手包里有护照、签证和机票，这时其中一人看了护照，才发现是“一场误会”。后来看情况实在严重，他们才把医生叫来，把我送到医院”
At present, Zhao says that she suffers from dizziness, headaches, ringing ears, back pain, an exposed nerve from the broken tooth nd insomnia. She is presently receiving daily treatment, and she has an extended visa since she is a material witness to a criminal case.
What did Officer Robert Rhodes have to say for himself?
In his incident report, Officer Rhodes said that a male African pedestrian had just been found to be carrying 3 to 4 pounds of marijuana and another officer told him to get the three women outside who were believed to be accomplices. When he approached the three, two of them fled and so he grabbed Zhao who stayed. When she swung her arms at him, he sprayed her with pepper spray. Rhodes said the woman scratched his arm and they both fell to the ground. A supervisor report said: "Subsequent investigation reveals (Zhao Yan) had nothing to do with the marijuana smuggling but was merely a tourist who happened to be in the area."
On Friday, Officer Rhodes was charged in US Federal Court in the western district of New York State with violating the civil rights of Zhao Yan. He was released on US$50,000 bail. If convicted of the charge, Rhodes could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a US$250,000 fine. Associated Press reports: "Authorities were seeking a search warrant to photograph and videotape Rhodes to determine whether he was injured." Rhodes had better start scratching himself, although it may be too late due to the following statements already in the record (ChinaNewsNet).
At 1:15am on July 22, Homeland Security investigators Steve McMartin and Don Mania arrived at the scene and saw officer Rhodes with several other officers. The investigators asked Rhodes if he needed medical treatment. Rhodes said that he was fine but he had one scratch wound. He then showed the investigators a small scratch on his shoulder. No bleeding was observed.
The investigators also spoke to Homeland Security officer Angelo Arcuri. At the time of the incident, Arcuri was next to Rhodes. According to Arcuri's testimony, Rhodes searched an African male in the immigration and customs office and found several pounds of marijuana in his backpack. Arcuri asked Rhodes if the suspect has accomplices. Rhodes said that a tall African female and two Asian females were the accomplices of the drug smuggler.Then Arcuri observed that Rhodes charged outside the immigration and customs office towards several Asian females.
The prosecution said that according to Rhodes' report the next day, it was Arcuri who ordered him to arrest the females who were with the black male. Rhodes said that he saw two Asian females and one tall black female outside the door. So he went outside to get them to come in, but they started running away. He grabbed the last one, who was Zhao Yan. Rhodes said that Zhao attempted to break his hold, so Rhodes applied the pepper spray. When he tried to pull her towards the office, she grabbed his shoulder and they both fell to the ground.
The physical characteristics are: Zhao Yan is 5'2" tall and weighs less than 120 pounds, while Robert Rhodes is 5'11" tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.
The illustrated diagrams are as follows:
The three Chinese women crossed the bridge
Homeland Security officer Robert Rhodes charged
out of the Buffalo Immigration & Border Patrol Building
and sprayed Zhao Yan with pepper spray
Zhao Yan is taken inside the building by officer Rhodes
At 3:35am, the prosecution also interviewed Homeland Security officer Emmett Russell. According to Russell, at around 11:15pm last night, he heard a pained scream. When he went over, he saw officer Rhodes grabbing the female Zhao and pushing her up against the wall. Zhao was on her knees with her back bent. Rhodes had her right arm twisted backwards so that she could not move. Officer Amina Zinnerman was trying to grab Zhao's left arm, but she was trying to cover her face. Russell then observed that Rhodes grabbed Zhao's hair and applied his knee into Zhao's face. Rhodes also grabbed Zhao's hair and smashed her face into the ground. Russell then rushed in to push Rhodes aside and ordered him to stop. Zhao had ceased to resist by that time.
The prosecution also interviewed female Homeland Security officer Amina Zinnerman. She also testified that she heard a pained scream at that time. She went over and saw Rhodes grabbing Zhao and pushing her against the wall. Zinnerman then went up to grab Zhao's left arm. From that position, she saw Rhodes applied his knee into Zhao's head three times. Then Rhodes used both his hands to grab her hair and smashed it into the ground twice. Zinnerman then observed officer Russell pulled Rhodes' shoulders away and ordered him to stop.
Meanwhile, Zhao's lawyer Stanley Legan said the incident was clearly an assault on an innocent civilian and they would seek compensation of at least US$5 million. According to Legan's office, their research have shown that officer Robert Rhodes has a prior history. This meant that Homeland Security should have been aware that the officer was a problem, but still placed him in this position.
(New York Daily News) Border agents brutal, she sez. By Xiaohui Restall. July 27, 2004.
Sporting ugly bruises and crying through eyes nearly swollen shut, a diminutive Chinese businesswoman yesterday recounted her violent encounter with U.S. border agents in Niagara Falls.
Yan Zhao, 37, was on the Rainbow Bridge on the U.S.-Canadian border last Wednesday when Homeland Security Department agents caught a man who was trying to smuggle marijuana. Thinking she was with him, the agents sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her on the ground and repeatedly kicked her in the body and head, Zhao insisted yesterday.
"I always thought American policemen are very handsome, tall and strong. I never imagined they would inflict this kind of violence on a woman," Zhao said. "Spraying Mace is enough; why did they have to beat me?"
One federal officer, Robert Rhodes, has been charged with violating Zhao's civil rights. The U.S. attorney in Buffalo alleges the officer kneed the woman in the face and slammed her head against the ground.
Zhao, though, insists she was beaten by at least three customs and border protection agents.
"I think they all should be punished," said Zhao, a clothing company owner who was in the U.S. on a business trip. She had visited Philadelphia and New York City before goingto Niagara Falls. She plans to sue the U.S. government for at least $5 million.
Rhodes told investigators that Zhao and two friends ran from him and he used his pepper spray after Zhao flailed her arms at him. He said she was hurt when the two fell to the ground as he tried to subdue her.
Zhao tells a different story.
"He waved one hand to show me to stop, and the other hand pulled out the pepper Mace and sprayed it on me, my eyes first, and then my hair, my neck, all over me," she said. "Next thing I knew I was on the ground, surrounded by at least three policemen and they all kicked my face and body with their leather shoes."
After the beating, Zhao ended up in a detention room. She said her eyes were swollen shut, a tooth was broken and her skin was burning from the pepper spray. "I felt like I was dying," she said.
She was rushed to an emergency room in Niagara Falls. But Zhao broke down crying when she said the humiliation of the beating was worse than the physical pain.
"As a businesswoman, I was very confident," she said, "but now my confidence is all gone. I'm staying at a friend's apartment on a 25th floor. Sometimes, I just wanted to jump off."
(China Daily) Beating of tourist reflects US hypocrisy. By Hu Xuan. July 27, 2004.
Robert Rhodes, a United States Homeland Security inspector, was charged on Friday with violating a Chinese tourist's civil rights following the vicious beating of Zhao Yan, a 37-year-old businesswoman from Tianjin.
The incident occurred late Wednesday at the US-Canadian border at Niagara Falls, after US Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian. Rhodes pepper-sprayed and repeatedly struck Zhao after confusing her with suspected drug smugglers.
Zhao said she told the officers she had legal documents, including a passport and visa, but they did not stop beating her. After she managed to display the documents she was told "it is a misunderstanding." Such an explanation is far from adequate.
According to a supervisor's affidavit, subsequent investigation revealed the victim had nothing to do with the marijuana smuggling but was merely a tourist who happened to be in the vicinity. The beating left the innocent woman's eyes nearly swollen shut and bumps and bruises on her face and head.
A swift and thorough investigation must be launched to bring the culprits to justice.
The world knows the US propensity for pointing fingers at others in human rights protections. But who is the real threat after all? Under the banner of anti-terrorism, the United States has given its army free rein to arrest or imprison any suspected terrorists or those suspected of having connections to terrorists. Its condemnation-provoking actions range from its invasion of Iraq without any convincing excuse to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.
The logic is reminiscent and representative of US arrogance on the world stage. The Americans can kill anyone they think is a potential threat to their precious lives, or beat an innocent woman half to death on the flimsiest of excuses. Taking advantage of the prevailing sense of fear they have cultivated at home, the US security apparatus has become even more bellicose in law enforcement.
Zhao said the barbarity she suffered went beyond her imagination. But she experienced it in the home of the world's most zealous preachers of "human rights." It remains unknown if Zhao's suffering had anything to do with her skin colour. US police brutality against non-white citizens is not unusual in the country. Whether or not the officers were aware of Zhao's status as a foreign national, their conduct was criminally inhuman. Together with their commanders in Washington, they are painting a shameful image of their country.
在趙燕被打後的第二日﹐美國聯邦檢察官以侵害人權和人身安全為理由，向野蠻毒打中國天津女商人趙燕的美國移民官員Robert Rhodes提出刑事訴訟。Rhodes面臨10年監禁和25萬美元的罰金﹐並已經被停職。代表趙燕打民事訴訟官司的紐約李根律師樓的律師李根(Stanley Legan)表示移民官打人的暴行令人發指﹐將會代表趙燕向美國政府索要至少5百萬賠償。中國外交部長李肇星7月26日與美國國務卿鮑威爾通電話﹐要求美方立即對此案進行認真、徹底的調查，依法嚴懲有關肇事人員。鮑威爾表示將過問此事。崔愛民副總領事看望過趙燕。據居住在紐約友人家的趙燕說﹐中國駐紐約總領事館僑務租唐立每天與她保持電話緊密聯係。(
起訴方指出，2004年7月22日，凌晨12點15分，當值的邊境移民官員Martin Mahady報告說，美國邊境移民官Robert Rhodes用胡椒噴霧器制服了一個人（即趙燕）。根據Mahady的報告，事件發生在2004年7月21日晚間11時15分，地點在紐約州尼亞家拉瀑布的彩虹橋。Mahady同時報告說，在襲擊發生的同時，移民官員同時發現一名攜帶有3到4磅大麻的非裔男子。 Rhodes認為趙燕是該男子的同伙，正在進行大麻走私。但檢察官後來的調查表明，趙燕只是一名恰巧經過此地的遊客，與走私大麻完全無關。Mahady還報告說，當時在場的另外兩位邊境檢察官認為，打人的Rhodes可能在試圖制服趙燕的時候，踢了趙燕的頭部。
7月22日大約凌晨1時15分時，國土安全部的調查官Steven MacMartin和Don Mania來到現場，看到Rhodes和另外幾位移民官在一起。調查官詢問Rhodes是否需要到醫院檢查。Rhodes表示他的情況良好，只是有一處抓傷。Rhodes向調查官展示了他胳膊上一處面積很小的抓傷痕跡，並無流血。
凌晨3時35分，調查官還訪問了移民官Emmett Russell。Russell表示，晚上11時15分，他聽見一聲痛苦地尖叫。當他走過去，看到Rhodes一把揪著趙燕，把她狠命推到墻上。趙燕跪在遞上，弓著背。Rhodes面對著她，Rhodes反擰趙燕的右臂，讓她動彈不得。另一位移民官Amina Zinnerman試圖抓著趙燕的左臂。趙燕試圖用雙手捂著臉。Russell看見Rhodes抓著趙燕的頭髮，用膝蓋踢趙燕的頭。Rhodes還揪著趙燕的頭髮，把她的頭往地上撞。這位Rhodes的同事見狀把Rhodes推開，並喝令他住手。就在這時，趙燕停止了掙扎。
調查官同時還向女移民官Amina Zinnerman問話，Amina Zinnerman證實她也在同一時刻，聽見有人痛苦地尖叫。看見Rhodes一把揪著趙燕，把她狠命推到墻上。Zinnerman走上前去抓住趙的左臂。她看見Rhodes用膝蓋踢了趙燕的頭部三次。然後Rhodes用雙手抓住趙燕的頭髮，把她的頭往地上撞了兩次。Zinnerman作證說，看到移民官Russell推了Rhodes的肩膀，並喝令他停手。
據檢控方表示，打人者Rhodes是白人男子，住址為2433，Lake Mead Road，Niagara Falls。他是美國國土安全部海關和邊境保護部門的雇員。如果在刑事法院被定罪﹐他面臨10年監禁，25萬美金罰金，並賠償趙燕醫療費，交通，延誤工作的賠償。(
(SCMP) Beaten tourist struggling to recover. By I-Ching Ng. July 28, 2004.
Only a week ago, Tianjin businesswoman Zhao Yan was happily snapping photos with New York City police officers in Manhattan. She could never have imagined that, within a matter of days, uniformed security officers would have beaten her and driven her into such a deep depression that she even thought about jumping from her window to end her life.
"When I was sightseeing on Wall Street, I would ask the NYPD New York Police Department police to take photos with me," she said.
"They are so tall and handsome. I never imagined they would assault me like this. They should be punished," Ms Zhao said.
She was beaten up by US homeland security officers at Niagara Falls, when they mistook her for a member of a drug-smuggling gang late on Wednesday night.
The incident has stirred anger on the mainland and was brewing into a diplomatic row.
In a telephone conversation with his US counterpart, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing urged the American government to conduct a "serious and thorough" investigation into the case.
In her hometown, angry web-surfers left messages on the internet demanding justice for Ms Zhao. In New York, many Chinese called local Chinese newspapers to rally support, and bouquets of flowers were sent to her.
Sitting in a wheelchair, the soft-spoken, 37-year-old Ms Zhao was reluctant to take off her sunglasses, which covered her swollen eyes and bruised face.
Ms Zhao is still suffering temporary loss of vision in one eye because of the pepper spray used against her.
"I feel deeply humiliated. They subdued me by spraying pepper in my face . Why did they need to beat me up repeatedly?" she asked.
Ms Zhao said she was beaten up by more than one police officer.
" Officer Robert Rhodes sprayed me all over and it burned my skin. At least three officers kicked my face and body with their leather shoes and had my hands held back.
"I couldn't do anything to defend myself," she recalled.
The businesswoman said she used to be very confident and beauty-conscious.
"But now my confidence has sunk. I don't want to go out and let people see my face now. Sometimes I just want to plunge down from my friend's apartment in New York on the 25th floor and put an end to everything that has happened," she sobbed.
Ms Zhao's friend, named Jennifer, said she had been in a rocky emotional state. "Even though she is resting in my apartment, she hallucinates and imagines people keep knocking on the door. She fears someone might come in and capture her," she said.
One of Ms Zhao's legal advisers in New York, lawyer Sun Lantao, said the legal effort to seek redress would take a while and advised her not to return to China immediately.
"Taking care of her physical health is the priority now," he said. "Ms Zhao is both mentally and physically traumatised."
"She has broken teeth and couldn't walk because of the injuries and she's on the verge of mental breakdown," said Mr Sun.
(WGRZ) Accused Border Guard Defends Beating Tourist. By Rich Kellman. July 28, 2004.
The attorney for Customs and Immigration Inspector Robert Rhodes says he was only doing his job when he maced and beat a tourist at the Rainbow Bridge last week.
"She fought him. She kicked him and she scratched him,' says Steve Cohen. "My client attempted to subdue her."
Rhodes is charged with violating the civil rights of 37-year-old Yan Zhao, a Chinese national who was visiting Niagara Falls on a bus tour. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The victim displayed black eyes and facial bruises two days after the incident. She says Rhodes mistook her for a drug suspect, sprayed her with mace, slammed her into a wall, kneed her in the head, grabbed her hair and slammed her head into the ground twice.
Attorney Cohen tells a different story. He says Yan Zao refused to stop when Rhodes ordered her to and then fought him. "When a customs officer tells you that you're about to be inspected," says Cohen, "you submit to that inspection or prepare to be met with whatever degree of force is necessary to get you to comply."
Rich Kellman notes, "Take a look at some of those pictures and it does raise the question, it seems to me," how much force is necessary? Grabbing her hair and striking her head with his knee? Striking her head on the ground?
Cohen replies, "This man's protecting our border. That's what these people do. This woman was not about to cooperate."
This case has grabbed headlines in China. The Chinese foreign minister demanded that Secretary of State Collin Powell make sure justice is done.
Cohen says that's also what his client wants. "I have the United States Constitution on my side, and I intend to represent my client armed with the Constitution, and politics be damned."
Cohen says he hopes to question all witnesses, including other security officers, and wants access to any surveillance tapes of the incident. Rhodes is due back in Federal Court on September 20.
(Los Angeles Times) Chinese in uproar over attack at U.S.-Canada border. By John M. Glionna. July 30, 2004.
The graphic front-page photo has played to the worst fears of this provincial river port city — showing a local businesswoman's face beaten black and blue and her eyes swollen shut.
The victim is a Chinese tourist who recently was attacked during an outing to Niagara Falls, on the U.S.-Canadian border. But the suspect isn't any violent criminal or quick-hit mugger. The man who allegedly punched Zhao Yan repeatedly and doused her with pepper spray was an inspector with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Officer Robert Rhodes is accused of throwing the 37-year-old gym-equipment saleswoman against a wall, kneeing her in the head and striking her head on the ground. Rhodes, 43, was charged with violating her civil rights and faces 10 years in prison if convicted. He said he thought Zhao was with a man from whom officers had just confiscated marijuana.
The attack has touched a nerve. In what the state-run media have called an unusual move, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing this week called on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to launch a "serious and thorough investigation" into the July 21 incident.
For many Chinese, the attack confirmed their worst nightmares of foreign travel and raised concerns about the safety of Chinese nationals living abroad, especially in the United States.
"I have been to many countries in the past for business purposes, and the United States is the most barbarous," Zhao told the state-run China Daily, which is distributed nationwide. The newspaper reported Zhao has hired a U.S. lawyer and plans to sue, seeking $5 million in damages.
College student Liu Peili said Zhao's experience illustrated the gap between the virtues preached by the United States and the reality of life within its own borders.
"America always points its finger at other countries, including China, about their so-called human-rights violations," the 22-year-old Tianjin native said. "So why then should an incident as ugly as this occur right there in the U.S.? America always seems to do exactly opposite of what it tells other countries to do."
For many here, the incident harks back to the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Although U.S. officials apologized for what they called an error, many Chinese thought the attack was intentional.
Zhao was chased and grabbed late at night on July 21 near Niagara's famed Rainbow Bridge by Rhodes, who said he thought she was part of a drug deal involving pounds of marijuana, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
After creating some suspicions by her movements, Zhao ran away just as authorities were doing a drug search. Rhodes grabbed Zhao, pepper-sprayed her, and roughed her up and badly bruised her face when she swung her arms at him in a struggle, according to U.S. officials.
Photos of Zhao with eyes swollen by the spray and panel talk shows featuring famous law professors on prime-time Chinese TV are playing here. This comes after this spring's coverage here of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
A business group called the Preparatory Committee of the Commission for the Promotion of U.S.-China Free Trade has criticized U.S. officials for the attack. Although it understands America's need to beef up security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the group said U.S. immigration officers have no right to assault foreigners without bothering to find out the basic facts.
Shopping at a Tianjin supermarket Wednesday, Zhang Weihao said women were not humiliated this way in China. "Women are supposed to be respected everywhere in the world," he said. "But apparently not in America."
(Christian Science Monitor) US, China in tiff over Niagara incident. By Robert Marquand. July 30, 2004.
A weird and unfortunate incident involving a US border guard who beat a female Chinese tourist at Niagara Falls last week is getting increasing play in China's state-run media as a high-emotions story, with the public receiving continual images of the woman's grotesquely wounded face in newspapers, on the Internet, and on TV talk shows.
For state media to feature so prominently a racially sensitive story, and to stoke the flames of considerable anger felt on the street here yesterday, suggests some cooling on the Chinese side of Sino-US relations, analysts say. After being phoned by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Secretary of State Colin Powell vowed to conduct a full investigation into the matter.
Zhao Yan, a Chinese businesswoman on holiday, was chased and grabbed late at night on July 21 near Niagara's famed Rainbow Bridge by a guard who thought she was part of a drug deal involving pounds of marijuana. After creating some suspicions by her movements, Ms. Zhao ran away just as authorities were doing a drug search. A customs agent, now charged with excessive force, grabbed Zhao, pepper-sprayed her, and roughed her up and badly bruised her face when she swung her arms at him in a struggle, according to US officials.
Now, shocking photos of Zhao with eyes swollen by the spray and panel talk shows featuring famous law professors on prime-time Chinese TV are playing here as part symbol, part stereotype of American aggressiveness. This comes after this spring's surfeit of images and other coverage here of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Moreover, the Zhao story seems to be featured by state media in China just as relations between the two powers are slightly less sunny and a bit more testy over the question of Taiwan, and with less than enthusiastic Chinese support for the US occupation of Iraq, analysts say.
In recent years, the kind of reporting the Chinese get on the US is often colored by the state of relations - tense or relaxed - between the two countries.
The online version of People's Daily, an official mouthpiece of China, yesterday accused the US of having a double standard on human rights. The paper described the incident as an example of America's "hegemonic attitude and racial discrimination," and allowed a Zhao quote to the effect that "America is the most barbaric of all the countries I've visited." Combined with a similar comment about US weapons sales to Taiwan last week, it has not been since the EP-3 spy plane incident in 2001 that China state-run media has allowed common use of such language.
Whether by coincidence, a Chinese professional, Ms. Gao,one of several Beijing residents interviewed on the street here yesterday, professed great anger at the US, and also used the word "hegemonic" to describe US foreign policy.
"My impression of America is not worse because my impression has never been good. Americans are always like that," Gao said.
Even little-known newspapers from small cities in China have allowed reporters to phone Zhao's lawyer in New York with questions. Zhao will reportedly ask for some $5 million in punitive damages.
Until yesterday, Chinese media had not mentioned that the incident took place in the dark, at 11:15 at night, and have only sparingly allowed details of the case to emerge. One story editorialized that the "guard's excuse is unfounded," referring to testimony that he used force only after Zhao resisted.
Some media outlets yesterday did call for Chinese to keep their anger in check. The privately run "Beijing News" carried a commentary by a Beijing law student arguing that the US judicial system is set up to work on behalf of Zhao.
At a Beijing parking lot where several students under 20 were practicing hip-hop music, one young man who gave his name as Zhou said that he was very angry, that the incident reminded him of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and that how the "responsible officer is treated by the courts in the US will be important to the Chinese people."
The border guard, Robert Rhodes, has been charged with civil rights violations, and could face up to 10 years in prison.
One leading Chinese businesswoman who has lived in the US argues that "cultural differences" may have led to the beating.
"In the US, if you get out of a car when the police stop you, there may be trouble," says Li Yifei, the chief representative of Viacom China in Beijing. "In China if you don't get out of the car, the police will think you are impolite. These kinds of differences sometimes matter."
(Buffalo News) Customs Officer Defended. By Gene Warner. July 30, 2004.
The alleged beating of a Chinese businesswoman on the Rainbow Bridge last week has become an international incident, and now the attorney for the Customs and Border Protection officer arrested in the case is fighting back.
Officer Robert Rhodes, 43, has been accused of using excessive physical force and pepper spray to subdue Zhao Yan, 37, on the night of July 21. The incident left her with both eyes nearly swollen shut.
"Officer Rhodes does not deny that he was in a full-blown fight with this woman," attorney Steven M. Cohen said Thursday. "He used whatever force was reasonable and necessary to counteract what she was doing to him."
Cohen said his client has been with the force for 17 years, has never been arrested and processes between 1,000 and 3,000 people per day.
"She claims that my client left his booth, ran out to where she was innocently taking photos and then violated her civil rights by spraying her with pepper spray," Cohen said. "That has no credibility. What motivation would Officer Rhodes have to leave his booth and pepper-spray or assault an innocent tourist?"
Photos of Zhao, with her eyes badly swollen, have helped turn this into an international incident, even leading to a discussion between Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
But Cohen pointed out that the chemical spray would have had that effect on her eyes. "That's what pepper spray does," he said.
In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Customs officials stated that they saw Rhodes throw Zhao into a wall, grab her by the hair, knee her in the head and strike her head on the ground during the incident.
"What they didn't say is what they didn't see," Cohen said. "They didn't see her fighting with Officer Rhodes, when she was kicking and scratching him."
The incident started when a pedestrian had cleared Customs, only to have an officer discover several pounds of marijuana on him. Rhodes, as an experienced Customs officer, knows that people involved with drugs often send a "mule" over the bridge and meet that person later, or accompany the "mule." Cohen said Rhodes saw three women standing nearby and gestured to them to come over. Two of the women ran, but Zhao froze and then started to run, Rhodes told his attorney.
"Officer Rhodes tried to detain her, at which point she began kicking and scratching him," Cohen said. "After getting kicked and scratched a few more times, he did what his protocol requires. He didn't pull out his firearm. He pulled out his pepper spray."
Cohen pointed out that his client also has bruises, on his arms and legs. He also noted that within a day or so of the incident, Zhao had contacted an attorney and was photographed in a wheelchair, with the bruises on her face.
Cohen, with the law firm Lorenzo and Cohen, doesn't consider Zhao an innocent victim. "The bottom line is she should have cooperated with Officer Rhodes and stopped as soon as he motioned to her," he said.
(Associated Press) Border officer's attorney: Political pressure driving case. By Carolyn Thompson. July 30, 2004.
The attorney for a Homeland Security officer charged with violating a Chinese tourist's civil rights contends "intense political pressure" and greed are driving the case, which has attracted the attention of Chinese and American diplomats. "It is clear to me that someone is attempting to use Robert Rhodes as a pawn in a much bigger game," attorney Steven Cohen told reporters Friday.
Responding to reports that Zhao Yan, 37, is suing the United States for $5 million following a beating which left her face cut and bruised, Cohen said Rhodes was following Customs and Border Protection procedure when he used pepper spray and physical force to subdue the woman at the Rainbow Bridge July 21.
"Everyone's been talking about civil rights in this case," the lawyer said. "What about the rights of our officers to protect our borders as they have been trained to do, as we need them to do?" Rhodes, 43, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Authorities said Zhao was standing nearby when customs officers confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian at the bridge linking Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Rhodes said in a statement that Zhao and two other women ran when he asked them to come into the inspection station.
An affidavit by a senior Homeland Security agent cited witness accounts of Rhodes spraying Zhao's face, throwing her against a wall, kneeing her in the head and striking her head on the ground.
The state-run China Daily newspaper published a front-page photo of Zhao on Monday, showing her with one eye swollen shut and lacerations on her forehead. The businesswoman was quoted as calling the United States "the most barbarous" country she had been to.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that China's foreign minister demanded in a phone call with Secretary of State Colin Powell that American border officials be punished. Powell said he would "inquire into the issue," the agency reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Michael Battle said his Buffalo office received a letter from the Chinese ambassador to the United States expressing gratitude that the incident was being taken seriously. But Battle said it was evidence, not political pressure, that led to the criminal complaint. The decision to charge Rhodes, he said, was made well before there had been any contact between U.S. and Chinese officials, and before Zhao had announced her intent to sue. "None of that influenced us at all," Battle said.
Cohen estimated that Rhodes has processed more than 8 million people entering the United States over his 17-year career. "But now the same government that Officer Rhodes has committed most of his adult life to protecting finds itself under tremendous international pressure to prosecute Officer Rhodes," he said.
Cohen accused prosecutors of hampering his attempts to investigate the incident. Although a videotape may exist, he said, no one has given it to him. Battle said he did not know whether there was a videotape.
Cohen sought to discredit Zhao by implying she had exaggerated her injuries pointing to her appearance at a New York City press conference in a wheelchair. "It appears to me there is a financial agenda," he said.
A US federal prosecutor angrily denied allegations that Robert Rhodes was arrested over beating Chinese tourist Zhao Yan because he is gay.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield told a judge Friday that Rhodes was suspended because the evidence shows he violently attacked a Chinese tourist at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.
"If he is homosexual, God bless him. It's none of my business. I made the decision to prosecute this case (and) I could care less that he is homosexual," Littlefield said. "It has nothing to do with the prosecution of this case."
Littlefield spoke during legal arguments in the case of Rhodes, 43, who is accused of pepper-spraying and attacking tourist Zhao Yan, 37, at the bridge on July 21. The legal arguments were observed by members of the Chinese community in Buffalo who have started a petition drive seeking "human rights and social justice" for Chinese who cross the Canada-U.S. border.
His attorney, Steven M. Cohen, said Rhodes denies any wrongdoing, and feels that he was singled out for prosecution because he is "openly gay." Cohen asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott to dismiss the charges against Rhodes because he is the victim of "selective prosecution" by the federal government.
If Rhodes was charged, as many as 10 other officers involved that night should also be charged, Cohen said. "(Zhao) has repeatedly stated that she was kicked by other officers in the head," Cohen said. "Robert Rhodes is the only officer who was openly gay. He is the only officer who is being prosecuted." Littlefield said he didn't find out that Rhodes was gay until after he had been arrested and suspended from duty.
Prosecutors have alleged that Rhodes attacked Yan because he mistakenly thought she was connected to a man who had just been caught carrying marijuana over the bridge into the United States. Yan, a Chinese businesswoman who was sightseeing at the Falls, has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Rhodes and Homeland Security.
Dr. Jie Zhang, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at Buffalo State College, watched Friday's proceedings with Shengjun Yuan, president of a Chinese students association at the University at Buffalo. Zhang said he is impressed that the U.S. government is willing to prosecute "one of its own employees."
"In other countries, that might not be possible," Zhang said. "People in China are watching this case very closely. We were upset by the silence in Buffalo."
Yuan said Chinese students at UB are concerned about the case because a number of them have been harassed at the border when traveling between the United States and Canada.
Scott reserved decision on Cohen's request to dismiss the charges.
(AP via Newsday) Judge postpones assault trial amid accusations about victim. By Carolyn Thompson. July 26, 2005.
The trial of a Department of Homeland Security officer charged with beating a Chinese tourist was postponed Tuesday amid unsubstantiated claims that the victim was involved in alien and art smuggling and a homicide in China.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara agreed to delay the trial of Customs and Border Protection Officer Robert Rhodes, which had been scheduled to start next Tuesday, until Aug. 18 to give defense attorneys time to explore the allegations against Zhao Yan.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Littlefield said the claims were made by two Chinese citizens who approached U.S. government officials in Beijing last summer. Investigators determined they "had no credence" before turning the information over to defense attorneys, he said.
The accusers, using pseudonyms, told authorities Zhao Yan had provided more than 100 Chinese nationals with fake documents that they used to obtain U.S. visas and enter the United States, and that Zhao was scouting new smuggling routes during her trip to the United States last July, when she was allegedly assaulted by Rhodes at the U.S.-Canadian border in Niagara Falls.
The informants also implicated Zhao in a woman's death in China and in cases of art smuggling, saying they had documentation that they offered in exchange for protection from the Chinese government.
"Everything indicates they were pushing to get into the United States," Littlefield said.
Steven Cohen, Rhodes' attorney, said he wanted to have his investigators in China look into the allegations. If true, the lawyer said, he would use them to chip away at Zhao's credibility at trial, noting that Zhao has initiated a $10 million lawsuit against DHS.
"Does she have a motive to lie?" Cohen asked. "Well, she's got 10 million reasons now."
Rhodes was charged with violating Zhao's civil rights by using excessive force after he said Zhao and two other women ran when he summoned them into the border inspection station.
An affidavit by a senior Homeland Security agent cited witness accounts of Rhodes spraying Zhao's face with pepper spray, throwing her against a wall, kneeing her in the head and striking her head on the ground, leaving her face bruised and cut and one eye nearly swollen shut. Rhodes could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Also Tuesday, Cohen said he had included former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on his witness list for trial and planned to quiz them on statements they made following complaints about the alleged assault by Chinese officials.
He accused the U.S. government of selling out Rhodes in the interest of preserving delicate U.S.-Chinese relations. "Officer Rhodes has basically been flushed down the toilet ... There is political motivation behind the prosecution," Cohen said.
(Buffalo News) Lawyer for Chinese tourist questions charges in bridge case. By Dan Herbeck. July 27, 2005.
The attorney for a Chinese tourist who was allegedly stomped, pepper-sprayed and beaten at the Rainbow Bridge last summer says he cannot understand why only one Department of Homeland Security officer faces indictment.
Attorney Stanley J. Legan told The Buffalo News that his client has always insisted that "at least three" bridge officers kicked and injured her during a fracas at the bridge July 21, 2004. Legan represents Zhao Yan, 38, who plans to sue Homeland Security over the attack, which reportedly left her with multiple injuries to her face and body.
Robert Rhodes, 44, a Homeland Security bridge inspector, was suspended and charged criminally. He faces a jury trial next month before District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
"Why the government only chose to charge one officer, I don't know," Legan said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "From the beginning, she has made statement after statement to the Homeland Security people that she was attacked by more than one person. She's always maintained that she was down on the ground, after being pepper-sprayed . . . and she felt blows from the front, the sides and the back, from several different pairs of boots."
Rhodes has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the case. He has also contended that he has been singled out for prosecution because he is openly gay. A federal prosecutor has denied that contention.
"We presented all the evidence on this incident to a grand jury," Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield said. "The grand jury, after hearing the evidence, returned the indictment as it now exists." Asked about Zhao's allegation that she was kicked by several different people, Littlefield said. "With a trial looming ahead, I'm not going to comment further."
The incident at the Niagara Falls bridge made worldwide news last summer and erupted into an international incident. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge all took an interest in the case.
Legan's comments on Tuesday were made shortly after Rhodes' attorney, Steven M. Cohen, told Arcara that people in China have alleged that Zhao was involved in murder, smuggling of art works and smuggling of aliens.
Rhodes' trial was scheduled to begin next week, but after Cohen asked for more time to investigate the allegations against Zhao, Arcara decided to postpone jury selection until Aug. 18.
"This information was only turned over to me on July 8," Cohen said. "I need more time to investigate them before the trial . . . to see if they have any bearing on (Zhao's) credibility as a witness."
After the bridge incident, two people in China contacted the U.S. Embassy to tell American officials that Zhao was involved in criminal activities, Cohen said.
Legan denied the allegations. He said Zhao is a Chinese businesswoman who was touring America with a tour group when the bridge incident occurred.
"After all the publicity about the attack on her, there were people in China who circulated a lot of trash about her on the Internet," Legan said. "There are people in China who aren't used to someone who challenges authority."
Government investigators have already looked into the allegations about Zhao and they appear to have no credibility, said Littlefield.
Littlefield told Arcara he will turn over all the information he has about the allegations to Cohen, so the defense lawyer can conduct his own investigation.
Zhao has not been charged with any criminal activity.
Cohen also said he needs more time to investigate some "mysterious activity" regarding a surveillance camera on the bridge. He said the government has told him that - out of more than 30 cameras - the one camera that would have had the best view of the Zhao incident was not working on that night.
"I want the government's maintenance reports on those cameras," Cohen said.
Cohen also revealed that he has put Powell and Ridge on his witness list, and he hopes to have them testify at the trial. He said he hopes the two former cabinet members will explain if there were any political ramifications behind Rhodes' indictment.
"Officer Rhodes was basically flushed down the toilet" to avoid causing more volatile relations between the U.S. and China, Cohen said.
Arcara was openly skeptical of several of the contentions made by Cohen during Tuesday's court arguments.
"Who is on trial here?" the judge angrily asked Cohen. "The government's not on trial. Your client is on trial."
(Buffalo News) Border agent's lawyer wants to bar graphic photo. By Dan Herbeck. August 13, 2005.
A defense attorney wants jurors to be prevented from looking at "inflammatory" photographs of a Chinese tourist, who claims she was viciously beaten by a Homeland Security officer. The attorney for Robert Rhodes, 44, has asked U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to stop a prosecutor from using photos of the face of Zhao Yan, 38, as evidence in Rhodes' trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday. Rhodes is accused of beating Zhao and violating her civil rights at the Rainbow Bridge July 21, 2004. Rhodes denies the allegations. He is the first local bridge inspector to be criminally charged with attacking a tourist.
Several pretrial motions were filed over the past week by Rhodes' attorney, Steven M. Cohen, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield. Cohen argued that pictures taken by authorities of Zhao's injuries are "inflammatory" and "misleading." Cohen said the pictures will not give jurors any insight as to how Zhao was hurt, or who hurt her. Littlefield said the jury should see the pictures, which he said will illustrate "clear evidence of trauma to the victim's head."
Cohen also has accused Homeland Security officials of refusing to allow him to interview government employees who are key witnesses in the case. He said the agency's actions have made it difficult for him to prepare a defense for Rhodes. A Homeland Security spokesman said he could not comment on the allegation. Littlefield accused Cohen of trying to manipulate a prosecution witness - one of Rhodes' Homeland Security co-workers - by threatening to expose embarrassing information about her brother.
The prosecution witness' brother is in jail, facing a murder charge. According to Littlefield, Cohen visited the man in jail July 25, telling him that he might have to mention the murder charge during the trial if the jailed man's sister refuses to help Rhodes with her testimony. Cohen admitted visiting the man, but denied making any threats. He said he only spoke to the jailed man because Homeland Security made it impossible for him to interview the man's sister.
The jury trial before Arcara is expected to last about two weeks.
(Buffalo News) Spotlight on American justice. By Michael Beebe and Dan Herbeck. August 18, 2005.
A U.S. border inspector was scheduled to go on trial today on charges of beating a Chinese businesswoman he had mistaken for a drug smuggler, a case that made front page news in China and led to high-level talks between China's foreign minister and then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
Robert Rhodes, 44, of Niagara Falls, a 17-year veteran of what is now the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, faces a single count of violating the civil rights of Zhao Yan, a charge that carries a 10-year prison term.
Steven M. Cohen, Rhodes' lawyer, is attempting to subpoena both Powell and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to testify about allegations that, in indicting Rhodes, the government had bent to pressure from China.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara completed jury selection Thursday and is expected to rule shortly on whether Powell and Ridge can be called to testify.
For days, pictures of Zhao, 38, with both eyes blackened and her forehead bruised and scratched, appeared on government-controlled television and newspapers across China.
"What happened to this woman?" EastSouthWestNorth, a Hong Kong Web site, asked in posting photos of Zhao. "Was she the victim of domestic violence? Was she in a train wreck? Was she the victim of a mugging?"
The trial, which could last several weeks, is expected to draw widespread attention in China, where commentators have accused the United States of a double standard - criticizing China for human rights violations while one of its agents is accused of assaulting a Chinese citizen.
"The Chinese people were very upset by the brutality of the American officers," said Zhang Jie, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at Buffalo State College. "I think the Chinese people were impressed that the U.S. government was willing to prosecute one of its own."
But they may react angrily if Rhodes is acquitted, Zhang said, especially since the U.S. government has been pressing China to improve its human rights record.
"There could be demonstrations and protests," he said. "Even if she was a drug dealer or a criminal, there would be no reason to beat her like that."
Mingyu Wang, an Amherst engineer and active member of the Chinese Club of Western New York, added: "In China, people see America as putting a great emphasis on human rights," he said. "People look up to the United States for that. [This incident] really painted a very bad picture of America."
Rhodes, who says others took part in detaining Zhao, claims he is being singled out for prosecution because he is openly gay. The government denies the charge, and a judge ruled out the claim.
Zhao, who owns a furniture company in the Chinese coastal city of Tianjin, was in Pennsylvania on business when she took a side trip to Niagara Falls.
She and two other Chinese women say they were trying to walk to Canada at about 11:15 p.m. July 21, 2004, at the Rainbow Bridge.
According to federal prosecutors, the events leading to her arrest began when Rhodes cleared Dennis L. Leathers Jr. of Baltimore, who had walked across the bridge from Canada, to enter the United States.
Angelo Arcuri, another inspector, told investigators that, as Leathers walked past, he noticed a bulge in his back, stopped him and discovered marijuana. After a brief struggle, Arcuri said he handcuffed Leathers.
Rhodes told investigators he thought Zhao and her companions were with Leathers, so he hit an alarm button on his portable radio to call other inspectors and then ran after the women.
All three women, he said, fled. While he caught Zhao, other inspectors pursued the others.
He said Zhao resisted attempts to handcuff her, so he used what he called appropriate force to subdue her.
Other inspectors told investigators that Rhodes pepper-sprayed Zhao, put her against a wall and said he had her under control.
Emmett Russell and Amina Zinnerman, two fellow customs inspectors, are expected to testify that when they tried to help Rhodes - who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 210 pounds - handcuff the 5-foot-2, 115-pound woman, Zhao was on her knees.
Before they could intervene, Rhodes, they said, kneed Zhao three times in the face, grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head twice on the pavement.
After talking to other inspectors and all three women that night, investigators said they found no connection to Leathers, and the three were released. Zhao insisted she never ran, but the other two women said they ran because they were frightened.
Rhodes said he used only enough force to subdue Zhao.
"I did my job the way I've been trained for the last 17 years," Rhodes said Aug. 14, 2004, in his only public comment on the case. "She resisted. I used the proper level of force."
"Officer Rhodes does not deny that he was in a full-blown fight with this woman," said Cohen, his attorney.
Cohen claimed Zhao kicked and scratched Rhodes. To rebut that claim, federal prosecutors got a warrant that allowed them to photograph and videotape Rhodes. They intend to show those images to jurors.
Cohen said Rhodes' superiors have wanted to get rid of him since 1995, when he told them he was gay.
Martin J. Littlefield, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Rhodes, denies he was indicted because he is gay or because of political pressure.
"If he is homosexual, God bless him," Littlefield told U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott last November. "It's none of my business. I made the decision to prosecute this case, (and) I couldn't care less that he is homosexual."
After hearing arguments, Scott ruled that Rhodes had not been targeted because he was gay.
Littlefield also said Rhodes already had been charged when Powell and Li Zhaoxing, China's minister of foreign affairs, discussed the case after Li called Powell to voice his concerns.
But shortly after the incident, Zhao told reporters that at least three inspectors had kicked her.
"I really want to ask them face to face," Zhao told the Chinese news agency Xinhua last summer. "How would you feel if your sisters were beaten by several rough men?"
Wang, the Chinese Club of Western New York member, said more than 1,000 Chinese nationals live in the Buffalo Niagara region. Many, he said, will follow the Rhodes trial closely because Asian-Americans have had other difficulties with the Homeland Security Department.
Regardless of the outcome, the case already has damaged the Chinese people's image of the United States, Wang said.
"I believe the officers at customs should be more sensitive to the diversity of the Western New York region," Wang added. "They represent the American people to the rest of the world."
Zhao, who speaks no English, will travel to Buffalo to testify through an interpreter. Fang Xie, one of her companions that night, also is expected to testify. But prosecutors say the third woman, Ning Huang, now lives in Japan and has refused to return to the United States.
Stanley J. Legan of Queens, Zhao's attorney, has filed notice he will sue the federal government for $10 million on her behalf. Last year, he helped her file a successful claim with the New York State Crime Victims Board for an undisclosed amount.
Cohen has complained that Homeland Security officials have hampered his defense of Rhodes by denying him opportunities to interview customs agents or making it difficult for them to speak freely. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents Rhodes, has joined in that claim.
(ChineseNewsNet) (August 18, 2005)
(partial translation) Robert Rhodes' lawyer Steven Cohen told our reporter that his attempt to investigate has run into trouble. He hired three different American investigative agencies with offices in China, but all three told him that they were warned by the Chinese government that they will lose their business if they investigate the case of Zhao Yan.
Cohen said, "They are all afraid of the pressure from the Chinese government. I am looking for a detective who is not afraid of the pressure from the Chinese government, but I haven't found one yet."
According to Zhao Yan's lawyer Stanley Leagan, the defense lawyer has asked the court to bar the use of photographs of Zhao Yan's bruised face as evidence shown to jurors. The reason is that one cannot determined from photographs alone that Zhao Yan had been assaulted. Defense lawyer Steven Cohen used the testimony of New York State licensed doctor Eric Davis who said that his experience in the emergency ward showed that pepper spray can also cause the same type of bruises on the face, and therefore it would be prejudicial to show Zhao's photographs to the jury.
Forward Link: The Trial About Chinese Tourist Zhao Yan