SAN FRANCISCO—A resolution proposing to name the new Chinatown station after deceased political activist Rose Lan Pak left the transportation agency divided on June 4. Three voted in favor of the name, the other three, against.
The controversy started in 2016 when those supporting the name wanted to give her credit for advocating the station’s construction. However, some residents and merchants in Chinatown saw her as a bully rather than a benefactor.
Over 60 people attended San Francisco’s MTA Board of Directors meeting to speak out about why naming the new station after Pak was not a good idea.
“Over 400 merchants in Chinatown signed a petition against the naming,” said Qian Zhang, a software engineer. “Many of them had been afraid to speak out against the injustice suffered at the hands of Rose Pak for fear of retaliation.”
“If we look at a letter sent to the MTA by the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, they said, the Chinese community supported the Chinatown Subway project. And it is unfair to single out Ms. Pak as the reason for the project,” said Chun Lee, a local resident.
“Chinatown station represent(s) all the Chinese … Rose Pak [does not] represent all the Chinese. She’s not qualified,” said Sonia Ng, a local resident.
One speaker shared a screenshot from a merchant’s group chat saying that Pak was a freeloader. They said she took things without paying—and that the people naming the subway station ‘did not do their homework.’
“Rose Pak was a known Chinese spy and unregistered foreign agent,” said Chris Kitze, a business owner. “FBI investigated her. There are still, from what I heard, still investigations going on. And when someone’s dead, they’re investigating everybody who was around her.”
There have been widespread concerns that Pak was “co-opted by Chinese intelligence,” according to Politico.
Some of the speakers provided evidence that allegedly shows Rose Pak worked closely with the Chinese Communist Party, and helped the regime persecute people who practice the spiritual discipline Falun Gong in San Francisco—allegations of which she has been “frequently accused,” according to the Foreign Policy Association.
An 82-year-old Soviet refugee and Falun Gong practitioner said at the meeting: “Why she never let us attend [the] parade for Chinese New Year? Why [does] she hate Falun Gong? Why [does] she hate our principles, Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. Why? If she’s [such a] good person?”
Since 2004, Falun Gong practitioners were banned from participating in San Francisco’s annual Chinese New Year Parade. In 2006, a number of them filed a complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission for religious discrimination.
Residents spoke at both San Francisco’s MTA and the Board of Supervisors on June 4th, which resulted in a standoff. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of naming the station after Pak.
“We were very disappointed with the Board of Supervisors’ voting results,” said Alicia Zhao, a local resident. “Because so much of the public took time off work to hear our opinion.”
Since MTA’s Board of Directors hasn’t reached a decision, the battle over naming the new Chinatown station continues.