San Francisco Officials Meet Resistance Over Proposed Subway Station Name

June 3, 2019 Updated: June 3, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO—A crowd of over 100 residents gathered at Portsmouth Square on June 3 to voice their resistance to the recent effort by the Board of Supervisors to name the upcoming Chinatown subway station after the late Rose Pak, who was a political power broker in the city.

The residents held banners reading “No Chinatown-Rose Pak Station.” The gathering took place one day before the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will discuss whether or not to name the new subway station after Pak.

Pak was infamous for her deep ties with Beijing’s communist regime. She passed away in September 2016.

The effort to name the station after Pak was initiated by Aaron Peskin, one of the supervisors of the city and county of San Francisco. Peskin explained that the reason he made this initiative was to recognize Pak’s efforts in helping raise funds for the subway project.

Residents of the city have voiced a number of concerns after learning about the initiative.

Pak’s name has met with controversy for several reasons, including that she openly defended China’s human rights crimes such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the persecution of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong; she was investigated by the FBI for alleged corruption; and she was known for doing unethical things such eating food and getting haircuts without paying for them.

Rui Wang, a lead volunteer from the Coalition Against Naming After Rose Pak, said at the gathering that the organization had collected more than 400 signatures from Chinatown businesses in support of only naming the station Chinatown Station, without Pak’s name.

Deng Haibo from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the Ho Wo Benevolent Association said that it is not appropriate to name the station after any person. He said that Chinatown Station is the only good name.

As the $1.6 billion Central Subway project approaches its completion, three different names have been proposed for the station in Chinatown: Chinatown Station, Sun Yat-Sen (Chinatown) Station, and Rose Pak Chinatown Station.

Sun Yat-Sen was the founding father of the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan). Sun built the first democratic republic nation in Asia, drawing his ideas from Abraham Lincoln and Confucius.

Few people have voiced opposition to the first two choices. Naming the station after Pak is the only one that has been sharply criticized.

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?”

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.

Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline that is practiced by people in more than 80 countries, but is persecuted in China, its home country. It involves doing five slow-moving exercises and following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance in daily life.

Before the Chinese regime began to persecute Falun Gong in 1999, the regime’s statistics showed that close to 100 million Chinese people had taken up the practice.

According to a news report by the newspaper Sing Tao Daily, when San Francisco Mayor 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. The resolution was in support of the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners.

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.

The residents at the June 3 gathering urged all residents who felt dissatisfied with the city’s proposal of naming the station after Pak to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting and SFMTA meeting on June 4.