SEPTEMBER 2002

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Qigong Therapists
From World Journal
August 22, 2002

Prosecutors postponed the trail of a group of female Chinese qigong therapists arrested in May on charges of performing massage without a license and prostitution in contemplation of dismissing the charges.

The group claimed that the traditional Chinese qigong therapy is different from massage and that no sex is involved. However, New York State has no law to regulate the industry and provides no exam to certify qigong therapists, putting qigong therapists trying to practice in New York in an awkward position.

Owners of qigong therapy parlors said that all of their therapists are well-trained and certified in China. However, there is no professional association in the United States to issue qigong licenses. Qigong therapists say that this is not fair for immigrants with special skills like them. More than 15 Queens-based therapists have been prosecuted this year alone.

Jesse Sligh, Assistant Executive District Attorney of Queens County, said he understands the situation and will look to see if there are examples to follow in other states. He urged the vice squad of the District Attorney’s office to get a better understanding of traditional therapists from different ethnicities.

Hsien Mei-ling, a member of the Asian community affairs committee at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, has helped the seven qigong therapists who are being prosecuted to negotiate with the DA’s office. She said that the Chinese community had fought hard for years to legalize acupuncture, a battle that was won in 1990. Currently Swedish massage is the only regulated massage.

Hsein said that she would like to push for the legalization of Chinese qigong therapy and other traditional Chinese medicine, and the creation of a certification system to regulate qigong therapists. She called on owners of qigong therapy parlors who encountered the same situation to contact her at (718) 359-4800 or call Sligh at (718) 286-6400. She encouraged Chinese therapists to testify in courts even if they are undocumented immigrants.

The seven qigong therapists being prosecuted were hired by Shao Wei-ling and worked at two parlors on Steinway Street in Astoria and Union Turnpike near Long Island. Shao said that qigong therapists use their fingers to massage the circulatory system and ease pains, similar to acupuncture.

"It is very different from massage," Hsien said.

According to Shao, on May 15, six or seven male and female police officers stormed into her Astoria parlor and demanded to see the therapists’ licenses. They asked everyone to squat down. Shao added that one male customer did ask a female therapist to perform massage on his genitalia in the past but was turned down.

"We have open therapy facilities and never get involved in any kind of sexual conduct," she said, adding that she has suffered a significant financial loss in the past three months because she was unable to operate her business.

Shao claimed that On May 28 and June 11, the police raided her Union Turnpike store on May 28th and June 11th. Nina Wang, who was on her third day of work during one of the raids, said "I did not even do any therapy but I was still arrested."

Currently five out of the seven therapists being prosecuted have enrolled in the "Second Chance Program," If they do not commit any crime within six months, all charges will be dropped.

 

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