A group of Chinatown residents protest Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s proposal to name the future Chinatown subway station after Rose Pak at City Hall on Monday, May 6, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Falun Gong members protest naming Central Subway station after Rose Pak

Political advocate worked to bring rail line to Chinatown, obtain federal funding

Some feuds continue even after death.

So it goes with Falun Gong, which lined up a rally of more than a hundred people at City Hall Monday afternoon to denounce the late Chinatown political advocate, Rose Pak.

The protesters were there in opposition to Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s resolution calling for the Central Subway’s Chinatown station to be named after Pak, who died in 2016.

Shortly after Pak’s death, the Board of Supervisors urged the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency to name the station after her, citing her work to bring the Central Subway to Chinatown and to secure $500 million in grant funding from the federal government. However, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors later instituted a policy to name stations after geographic locations, saying station names need to clearly direct riders to nearby places.

This month, Peskin revived the effort, attempting to meet the SFMTA’s concerns by using the name “Rose Pak Chinatown Station.”

Monday, the Falun Gong voiced their opposition.

Protesters held signs aloft reading “IMMORAL ROSE PAK,” “NO ROSE PAK,” “NO ROSE PAK ANYWHERE,” and “‘BROKER’ OF COMMUNISTS,” referring to Pak’s long-time reputation as a power broker.

While the group’s organizers did not immediately say the people standing on City Hall’s steps were Falun Gong members, they advocated for Central Subway station to be named instead for Sun Yat-Sen, whose ideological history in China is often praised by the organization.

“Falun Gong is just among the many groups” protesting, said Alicia Chen Zhao, a spokesperson for the protesters. Zhao said “several Chinese community organizations, as well as individuals, are involved,” but “because of the terror Rose Pak created in Chinatown, many organizations prefer not to mention their names.”

Proponents have called Falun Gong a spiritual movement while detractors including the Chinese government have called it a cult. Pak and the group were long at odds.

Pak banned the group from the annual Chinese New Year Parade in 2006, when complaints arose that members were distributing leaflets in violation of the parade’s rules around political outreach. They sued but subsequently lost that legal challenge.

Falun Gong has opposed Pak publicly since that dispute.

Zhao, the rally spokesperson, said it was peculiar Peskin pushed the resolution despite his critiques of Pak in the past.

In a 2011 phone interview with Chinese press, which was posted to YouTube, Peskin said “Rose Pak has been able to work with people to get undue influence in gaming city contracts, in gaming land use approvals to build new buildings in San Francisco. It’s really about political influence and how political influence works.”

Reached Monday for comment, Peskin said “everyone knows Rose Pak and I had an on-again, off-again relationship, and went from being the best of friends to the worst of enemies.”

“It was a long time ago,” he said.

Former Mayor Willie Brown exited City Hall right behind the protest Monday. A close friend and frequent ally of Pak’s, Brown had sharp words for the protesters.

“People are entitled to their opinions, but I don’t share it. Ed Lee wouldn’t share it. Pak saved Chinese Hospital” and helped get Central Subway built, he said. “Nobody else, not a soul up there (protesting), can match Rose’s record. Not even all of them combined.”

Brown said that Pak’s name “will be the name of the Chinatown Station.”

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