Front Page Magazine: Red Star Over San Francisco

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On March 1st, 2006, Front Page magazine published an article entitled "Red Star Over San Francisco". The article said that although San Francisco, California, boasts its own Human Rights Commission and bills itself as a bastion of tolerance, diversity and inclusion, it didn't quite work out that way when Falun Gong practitioners wanted to showcase their heritage in the 2006 Chinese New Year parade.

The article stated that Falun Gong practitioners found themselves being called derogatory names in the San Francisco Chronicle and banned from the parade. That led some observers to compare the San Francisco experience to what happens in the People's Republic of China, where Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted to death.

Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. In the spirit of Buddhism and Taoism, practitioners follow the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance.

By the late 1990s, the ruling Communist Party estimated Falun Gong followers at between 70 and 100 million, more members then the Party itself. In April 1999, following the advice of Chinese authorities, some 10,000 Falun Gong members went to appeal an injustice at the Beijing Appeals Bureau, which is near the Zhongnanhai secure complex that houses Chinese leaders. It was the largest gathering since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Though peaceful, the numbers alarmed the Party enough to begin harassing practitioners of Falun Gong. On July 22, 1999, the regime outlawed the group [..].

The article also stated that Amnesty International issued a report on the persecution of Falun Gong and Congress has passed a resolution criticising Beijing's crackdown, which targets Falun Gong practitioners in many countries. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has documented attacks on Falun Gong practitioners in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Australia, as well as the United States.

One recent example involved four Asian men recently breaking into the suburban Atlanta home of Falun Gong practitioner Peter Yuan Li. They bound him with duct tape, beat him up and stole two laptop computers.

A lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia charges a "campaign of terror" against followers of Falun Gong. Five Canadian residents are suing Chen Zhili, China's former education minister, whom they claim made key decisions and had control over those who carried out torture and persecution.

The article mentioned that in San Francisco, the only official concerned about the persecution campaign is Supervisor Chris Daly. In 2001, he authored a resolution condemning the persecution of Falun Gong. It failed to pass, falling to opposition spearheaded by Rose Pak, a former journalist known as the "dragon lady of Chinatown" and reportedly San Francisco's most powerful person outside of elected office. Pak accompanied then-mayor Willie Brown on junkets to Beijing, where Communist Party bosses accorded them red carpet treatment. Pak is on record as making many derogatory comments about Falun Gong.

Falun Gong marched in the Chinese New Year Parade in 2004 but San Francisco's Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCC), which runs the event, excluded them in 2005 on the grounds that some members had handed out political tracts. By some accounts, however, the motive for the exclusion was the business interests in the PRC by some Chamber members. Supervisor Daly protested the exclusion by allowing two Falun Gong members to ride in his car during the parade.

In the run-up to this year's parade, Daly floated another resolution condemning the persecution of Falun Gong. The Chinese consulate issued a statement warning the Supervisors against any decision that would harm relations between China and the United States. The resolution passed 9-2 in a watered-down version that failed to mention the People's Republic of China and took no position on the parade dispute.

The city of San Francisco provides $77,000 in funding for the parade, along with police support and other services. Daly and a few others argued that Falun Gong practitioners should be able to participate in an event their tax dollars supported. Falun Gong practitioners filed a lawsuit and lodged a complaint with San Francisco's Human Rights Commission. Daly held a hearing on the matter, charging that the Chamber was playing along with a propaganda campaign of the Chinese government that sought to justify the persecution of Falun Gong by demonising the group. The Chamber did just that, in a way particularly suited for San Francisco, with a quarter-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle attacking Falun Gong.

When the Chinese Chamber of Commerce also ran a full-page ad in the Chronicle stating it rejected the Falun Gong's assertion that "because they are Chinese, they have the right to be in the Chinese New Year Parade," Chris Daly accused Rose Pak of pushing China's political agenda.

The article said San Francisco police agreed to let some Falun Gong supporters hold banners on the sidewalk along the parade route from Chinatown to Union Square. But some Falun Gong practitioners said they were not allowed into the Chinatown district. The parade ushered in the Year of the Dog, but the way it played out was more like the Year of the Chicken.

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