Residents Complain at City Hall Hoisting Communist Flag
SAN FRANCISCO—Foreign flags are regularly hung from the Mayor’s balcony at City Hall, but not all flags are made alike. The “Five Star Red Flag” of the People’s Republic of China, for example, represents for many the violent rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and, for victims of the CCP, that flag reawakens memories of torture and murder.
The occasion for the most recent hoisting of that flag was Thursday, Sept. 29, in celebration of the date that the CCP officially seized power in China: Oct. 1.
But upon seeing the flag on City Hall, many found nothing to celebrate.
“It’s the symbol of a violent political dictatorship. I was shocked when I saw it,” said Da Fang on Oct. 4 at a public comment session to the Board of Supervisors that ran late. She was walking past City Hall just after finishing her Falun Gong exercises on Sept. 30. Falun Gong, a spiritual practice with five slow-motion exercises and teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, has been persecuted by the regime in China since July 1999.
“It felt like we’d returned to China. It was like the hands of the dictatorship had come here. My body turned cold,” Da Fang told the Board of Supervisors. They arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon and left at 9:30 at night, being among the last to speak as part of the Public Comment session.
Da Fang’s sister was beaten to death in a concentration camp because of her faith in Falun Gong. Da Fang herself was imprisoned, tortured, hit with electric batons, and force-fed with hot pepper sauce. Chinese security forces regularly mete out such treatment to Falun Gong practitioners, in an attempt to make them renounce their beliefs.
“How could the American government allow the bloody flag to be hung here?” she asked (the communists say that their flag was dyed red with the blood of martyrs). “This flag symbolizes violence. If it can be hung in the United States, it’s as though there is nowhere that we’re safe.”
Five other Falun Gong practitioners spoke at the hearing, most of them citing a case of persecution in their immediate family: a mother sent to labor camps for years for her beliefs, denied visits, and a family thus shattered; an aunt tortured to death (after suffering suffocation, the notorious torture called the “tiger bench,” and more)
“I hope our government could stand for justice,” said Peter Li, a young man who spoke at the hearing.
Helena Li, a young woman, spoke about how her mother was sent to a brainwashing center and almost lost her life. When Li did get to visit her mother, the latter’s bones were protruding, her weight having dropped from 140 to 70 pounds.
“The Communist Party is still persecuting Falun Gong. I hope San Francisco will establish friendship with the people of China, rather than the Chinese Communist Party,” she said.
When Da Fang and her peers went to voice their complaint to Mayor Edwin Lee staffers last Friday, they were initially met with denials that it had been hung at all (one suggested that the complainants were confused, and that the flag of the State of California was what they saw—which is white, with a bear in the middle, rather than all red with five yellow stars). That was on Friday, Sept. 30, the day after the ceremony celebrating the Chinese Communist Party’s anniversary of rule.
It was later admitted that the CCP flag had indeed been hung on Thursday, and left until the following morning, when Da Fang and others caught sight of it. The flags are usually taken down the same evening, but it had apparently been forgotten overnight. It was unclear why Lee’s staffer initially denied it had been hung.
The Falun Gong practitioners said they contacted a number of supervisors who expressed sympathy with their complaint.
A staffer at the Mayor’s Office of Protocol was guarded and curt in providing information about the format of ceremonies, and who initiated the contact between the Chinese consulate and the Mayor’s office.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to phone calls requesting comment.
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