SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on June 4, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to give recognition to the late Rose Pak, a well-known political power broker who was infamous for defending the massacre.
The controversial resolution was to urge the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to name the upcoming Chinatown subway station after Pak.
The SFMTA Board of Directors, which also held a board meeting on June 4, was divided 3-3 on whether to include any person’s name in the station name, and they left the naming issue unresolved. The SFMTA Board is waiting for a new board member to join the board soon.
Both the Board of Supervisors and the SFMTA Board of Directors held hours-long meetings because long lines of speakers were waiting to make public comments on the station naming issue.
The majority of the speakers who made comments to both Boards were against naming the station after Pak.
Several speakers who made comments to the Boards mentioned that the meetings were taking place on the 30th anniversary of the massacre. However, none of the members of the Boards explained why that specific day was chosen for such a controversial issue.
Willie Brown, the former mayor of the city, attended the SFMTA Board meeting as a private citizen and voiced his support for naming the station after Pak.
Pak was infamous for opposing city resolutions that aimed to raise public awareness of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, an incident in 1989 in which the Chinese communist regime sent tanks to kill students who were protesting for democracy.
To this day, Beijing has denied that the massacre happened. Different international organizations have given different estimates of the total death toll of the massacre, ranging from a few dozen to as high as 20,000. No official estimate can be made because of the regime’s continuous cover-up.
Pak was often referred to by local media as Chinatown’s political power broker. She was an executive director of the China Overseas Exchange Association, an organization overseen by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council of China.
In 2008, prior to the Beijing Olympics, Pak openly opposed a resolution of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that criticized China for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and its repression of the press and religious groups.
Pak, while calling communist China a “sleeping giant,” criticized the United States by saying, “On what moral ground does a country that’s been involved in the slave trade in Africa and that drummed up false charges to invade Iraq shake its finger and lecture China?”
After many years of promoting Beijing’s overseas propaganda agenda, Pak was invited to participate in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee’s meeting in Beijing in March 2014.
Supervisor’s Change of Mind
Aaron Peskin, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors member who proposed using Pak’s name for the subway station, had previously criticized Pak, identifying her as an agent of China.
“Rose Pak has been able to work with people to get undue influence in gaining city contracts and in gaining land use approval to build new buildings in San Francisco,” Peskin said in an interview with New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television during the 2011 San Francisco mayoral election.
“It is really about the political influence and how political influence works, and that even includes working with and representing the interests of outside governments from San Francisco. I am happy to name those names, and those names include the People’s Republic of China,” Peskin said.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2011, Peskin revealed how he was approached and courted by Pak.
“It was very seductive,” Peskin told The New York Times.
He told the newspaper that Pak gave gifts and invited him, his wife, and other officials and business leaders to meet senior officials in China.
“What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was being lobbied,” Peskin told The New York Times.
Peskin also told the newspaper that on the last night of his trip to China, he and Pak were joined in Hong Kong by one of San Francisco’s largest contractors, who had flown there to have dinner with them.
At the June 4 meeting, Peskin said that he does not like China’s regime, but he had a love-hate relationship with Pak. His reason for naming the station after her was to recognize her help with the development of Chinatown, including the construction of the subway station.
Persecution of Falun Gong
Several Falun Gong practitioners who live in the city spoke at the June 4 meeting. They told both Boards that they were jailed in China because they practice Falun Gong, a meditation discipline centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Falun Gong has been persecuted by the Chinese regime since 1999.
The practitioners came to the United States as refugees, but Pak’s name reminds them of their horrific experiences in China.
One of the Falun Gong practitioners presented a video at the SFMTA Board meeting showing how Pak led a deceptive effort to collect signatures against Falun Gong in Chinatown. People on the streets were asked to enter a prize drawing by signing their names, and they did not realize they were actually signing their names on an anti-Falun Gong petition.
Pak was widely considered the de facto leader of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Starting in 2004, she banned Falun Gong practitioners from participating in the city’s annual Chinese New Year parade, which is the largest of its kind outside Asia.
According to a report by the newspaper Sing Tao Daily, when Willie Brown visited Beijing in November 2001, Chinese communist leader Jiang Zemin praised Pak’s efforts to oppose a resolution by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to support the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners.
Several speakers at the June 4 meeting also mentioned the U.S. Congress’s 2016 resolution H.Res.343, which expresses “concern regarding persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China.”
Most of the public comments against naming the station after Pak were about Pak’s character as well as the image and integrity of a public project paid for by taxpayers. However, many of the members of the Boards appeared to be concerned mainly with Pak’s work related to the subway’s construction.
SFMTA vice chair Gwyneth Borden responded to those who were concerned about Pak’s support for religious persecution in China by saying that the meeting was not about religious practice, but for a transportation agency to choose a name for a transportation project.
Borden mentioned several contributions Pak made to the construction of the central subway.