OAKLAND — Vinson Lieu recalls walking to his mother's car when a mob of Mongolian youths surrounded him. As his mother watched in horror, he said, they threw him to the ground and beat him. The wrist bones of the Chinese-American teenager are still healing, months after the November assault.

That same month, a large group of Asian youths attacked an 11-year-old Mongolian boy as he left a restaurant with his older sister and two friends. The crowd knocked him off his new bicycle and hit him in the face, he said. They took his bike, too.

Those who know the two boys say they were not involved in any of the violent acts that likely triggered their own mob-style beatings. But they have been ensnared, all the same, in a conflict between a new wave of Mongolian immigrants and other Asian youth.

The fights and bullying that have occurred in and around Oakland's Chinatown have been variously blamed on turf battles and cultural and linguistic barriers. Teenagers say the problems, however they began, have persisted through a never-ending cycle of retaliation — one that has entangled so many Oakland youths of all races and ethnicities.

Although isolated and involving onlysome of the kids, the fights have wor-

ried parents and those who work closely with the youths.

"I don't feel good knowing that there's bad blood in the community," said Gilbert Gong, director of the Lincoln Square Recreation Center, a vibrant and ethnically diverse teenage hangout in Chinatown.

In the wake of a string of attacks late last year, Gong said, the Mongolian youths stopped shooting hoops at the Lincoln Square courts.

The Mongolian boy assaulted in November, now 12, said he and his friends have found another place to play basketball. Although farther from their homes, he said, it feels safer.

Gong wants to bring them back. He hates the idea that anyone would be afraid to use the basketball courts in their own backyard.

The recreation center is hosting a block party today in an attempt to bring the youths together. The block party is one of numerous events planned today for Oakland middle and elementary students to raise awareness and educate students, teachers, counselors, parents and the public about effective ways to prevent youth violence.

The 4-6 p.m. event at 250 10th St. will mark the end of National Youth Violence Prevention Week, and, Gong hopes, the beginning of a truce.

The kids say it won't be so simple.

"I just think the issue can't be solved," said Mary Lee, 17, who serves on the recreation center's youth advisory council. "You can't just sit them down to talk. Even if you do, they won't communicate. That's how the teenage world turns."

Chung Tu, a friend of Lieu's who is also on the council, said his group of friends is still bitter about the November attack by the Mongolian teenagers. If they happened to encounter the assailants in the street, he said, another confrontation would be almost inevitable.

"They jumped the wrong person," he said, emphasizing that the attack on his 17-year-old friend was a case of mistaken identity.

Lieu, still wearing a cast this week, said he wouldn't be thrilled to see any of his attackers at the event. He might be able to forgive them, he said, but only "if they pay for everything that happened, everything my family had to pay for."

Some adults familiar with the conflict — including Gong and Brian Tang, who works with troubled youths in the Oakland public schools — are careful to put the fights in context.

"The Mongolian kids are the new kids on the block, and they're coming into established neighborhoods that are predominately Chinese and Vietnamese and Southeast Asian," said Tang, who was born and raised in Oakland. "Nobody knows who they are."

As Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants experienced a generation ago — and the Chinese before them — new arrivals are not always received with open arms, Tang said. 

Eased visa restrictions caused a wave of Mongolian nationals to begin settling in Oakland and other East Bay cities about five years ago, said Shirchin Baatar, who until recently served as president of the Bay Area Mongolian Community Association.

The size of the Mongolian community in the Bay Area is difficult to pin down. The U.S. Census does not even list Mongolian as an ethnic group, and many arrived after the 2000 census data was collected.

Based on the turnout to local events, Baatar estimates that as many as 3,000 Mongolian immigrants live in the East Bay, mostly in Oakland and San Leandro.

One of the largest landlocked countries in the world, Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. It was a communist state with close ties to the Soviet Union until the fall of communism in 1990.

In the years since, some of its citizens have sought economic opportunity in other countries, including the United States. Many in Oakland's nascent Mongolian community, whose native language is Mongolian, have yet to learn English.

The Mongolian boy interviewed for this story, a student at Westlake Middle School, has lived in the area since he was 4. He said he has friends from diverse ethnic groups and that he was surprised to feel the sting of racist remarks on the basketball court last summer.

Months before the assault, he said, some youths at the recreation center started bullying him and his friends.

"They'd say cuss words at us and lots of racist stuff," he said.

Another time, while he was riding his bike to the center with his friends, a group of kids started chasing them. One said they had a gun, he said.

Like Lieu and Lee, the 12-year-old doesn't think everyone will suddenly forget past wrongs and co-exist harmoniously. But, he said, maybe the center could designate a certain time for them to use the courts — a solution that Gong has considered, among others.

Despite his traumatic experience in November, the boy seemed interested in attending tonight's event at Lincoln Square.

But he might not go after all. His father, who asked not to be identified for fear of putting his son at risk, said he wouldn't let him. Although the family filed a police report at the time of the attack near the center, his father said nothing ever came of it. And he worries about his son's safety.

"I told my kids, 'Never go there again,'" the father said. "I already learned my lesson."

E-mail Katy Murphy at kmurphy@oaklandtribune.com.