Rose Pak

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Rose Lan Pak
Rose Pak, San Francisco's Chinatown 'power broker'.jpg
Rose Pak in 1999
Native name
白兰
Born(1947-11-25)November 25, 1947
Hunan, China
DiedSeptember 18, 2016(2016-09-18) (aged 68)
San Francisco, California
Occupationjournalist, political activist
Years active1972–2016

Rose Lan Pak (Chinese: 白兰; pinyin: báilán; Jyutping: Baak6 Laan4)[1] was a political activist in San Francisco, California, noted for her advocacy for the Chinatown community and her influence on city politics.[2][3] Pak served as a consultant for the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco.[2] Although Pak never held an elective political office, she was known as an outspoken and well-connected "gatekeeper" figure who supported politicians by raising funds and connecting them with the city's growing Asian American community.[4]

Early life[edit]

Pak was born in Hunan, China, on November 27, 1947.[5] She received a Catholic education while growing up as a refugee in Macau and Hong Kong after her father, a businessman, had died in the Chinese Civil War.[3][6] When she was 17, she received a scholarship to attend the San Francisco College for Women, and in 1972 earned a master's degree at the Columbia School of Journalism.[2][7] After a brief stint working at The New York Times,[8] she returned to San Francisco to work for the San Francisco Chronicle (as its first female Asian American journalist[9]), a job that she left after eight years to become a full-time social activist.[3][6]

Political career[edit]

Pak's first objective as an activist was to organize a campaign to save the San Francisco Chinese Hospital from closure.[6] Later she worked for decades to advocate for its replacement by a new, modern building, and for the Central Subway project that is set to improve Chinatown's connection to the rest of the Bay Area.[10] Both projects broke ground in 2013.[10]

Pak was a supporter of Art Agnos (the city's mayor from 1988 to 1992), but opposed his efforts to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway, arguing that Chinatown would suffer catastrophic consequences if it lost the fast crosstown connection.[11] She won a ballot measure about the issue in 1987, but after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the freeway, her objections were overturned.[2] According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pak then "almost single-handedly persuaded the city to build" the $1.5 billion Central Subway project to compensate Chinatown for the demolition of the freeway.[12]

In 1996, Pak lobbied for the appointment of Fred H. Lau as the first Asian American head of the San Francisco Policy Department. She threatened to withdraw support for the S.F. Giants' proposed Pac Bell Park if Mayor Brown didn't fire a political consultant hostile to Lau.[13][2]

In 2011, Pak was instrumental in obtaining consensus to nominate Edwin M. Lee as the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco.[7] Pak said, "This was finally our moment to make the first Chinese mayor of a major city."[14]

In 2015, Pak and her ally Ed Lee had a fallout over Lee's choice of Julie Christensen as a replacement appointment to the Board of Supervisor instead of Pak's protege Cindy Wu.[3][15][16] Pak went on to support her former longtime adversary Aaron Peskin against Christensen in the supervisor elections for District 3 (which includes Chinatown) later that year.[3] Peskin defeated Christensen.

In the annual Chinese New Year's Parade, Pak was know for her outspoken comments about local politicians as they were passing by the central grandstand.[17] As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Pak's quips "ranged from humorous to mean, but they were almost always pointed and pertinent to Chinatown’s interests".[17]

Shortly before her death in 2016, Pak vehemently opposed a project to permanently convert parts of Stockton Street in the Union Square area outside of Chinatown into a pedestrian zone, arguing that Stockton Street was a "vital link" for Chinatown, and threatening to organize a blockade of City Hall by thousands of vehicles if the idea came to pass.[12][18]

In May 2016, Pak returned to San Francisco after an extended medical stay in China where she had received a kidney transplant, announcing to a welcoming committee of Chinatown elders, local politicians and city officials that her health had been restored.[4][16][19] She died in San Francisco on September 18, 2016, aged 68.[4] She was single all of her life, and had no children.[4]

Pak's funeral took place in September 2016, attended by many prominent San Francisco politicians, but her body was not cremated until three months later, due to a dispute among her two surviving sisters over the estate (estimated at $656,000, to the surprise of many observers, as Pak had had a reputation of being of little means).[20]

Political ties to the People's Republic of China[edit]

Pak was an overseas executive director of the China Overseas Exchange Association (COEA), an organization overseen by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.[1] At various times she spoke out in favor of the Chinese government's views, e.g. in 2012 calling all "overseas Chinese" to "defend the homeland” in the conflict about the Diaoyu Islands, and in 2008 opposing a resolution of the SF Board of Supervisors that criticized China for the Tiananmen Square massacre and other repression measures, passed on occasion of the Beijing Summer Olympics torch relay reaching San Francisco.[1][21] As revealed in a 2018 Politico report after Pak's death, among U.S. intelligence officials "there were widespread concerns that Pak had been co-opted by Chinese intelligence".[22] These also extended to her work in organizing many "junket" trips to China for leading Bay Area politicians, exposing them to surveillance and recruitment efforts (although there is no evidence Pak directly participated in such efforts herself).[22]

Pak was critical of the Falun Gong movement in San Francisco and in 2004 she banned the group from participating in the city's annual Chinese New Year's Parade.[2] The group and others, including San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, subsequently alleged that Pak had connections to the Chinese Communist Party.[2] Pak consistently denied any ties with Beijing.[2] In an August 2011 interview with the New Tang Dynasty Television and Epoch Times, former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin made similar allegations, claiming that Pak was "the real leader of San Francisco", and that she represented outside governmental interests that "include the People's Republic of China."[23][24]

Legacy[edit]

Rose Pak's Way

On the reopening of the Chinese Hospital at the end of April 2016, the city renamed an alley in Chinatown just east of the new tower in her honor to "Rose Pak's Way 白蘭之道".[9]

In October 2016, a few weeks after her death, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking the SFMTA to name the future Chinatown subway station after Pak, which was met with protests by Falun Gong activists.[25]

In March 2017, the city planted a gingko biloba tree in Pak's honor in St. Mary's Square.[26]

On the first anniversary of Pak's death in September 2017, the president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and other local leaders announced the launch of the "Rose Pak Community Fund", initially with $600,000 in donations, aimed at supporting health care, education, affordable housing and culture [27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Eades, Mark C. (June 9, 2016). "Beijing-by-the-Bay: China's Hidden Influence in San Francisco". Foreign Policy Blogs. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Wildermuth, John (September 19, 2010). "Chinatown's Champion". SFGate.com. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved May 28, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Eskenazi, Joe (2015-08-20). "A gravely ill Rose Pak on life, death, and her greatest regret (the mayor)". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  4. ^ a b c d "Rose Pak, SF political powerhouse, dies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  5. ^ "Rose Pak Obituary - Green Street Mortuary | San Francisco CA". obits.dignitymemorial.com. Archived from the original on September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Eckholm, Erik (November 11, 2011). "Rose Pak, a Chinatown Power Broker, Savors Mayor Edwin Lee's Victory". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Eckholm, Erik (November 11, 2011). "Rose Pak, a Chinatown Power Broker, Savors Mayor Edwin Lee's Victory". The New York Times.
  8. ^ FORA.tv (July 18, 2016), The New West with Will Hearst: Rose Pak, retrieved September 19, 2016
  9. ^ a b "Resolution 128-16: Rename James Alley to 'Rose Pak's Way 白蘭之道'" (PDF). San Francisco Board of Supervisors. April 22, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Jun, Chang (January 24, 2014). "Rose Pak: A tireless advocate for Chinatown". China Daily. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  11. ^ Wildermuth, John (September 19, 2009). "Chinatown's champion". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Rose Pak flashes red light on Stockton Street pedestrian mall". San Francisco Chonicle. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  13. ^ Hatfield, Larry D. (1996-01-19). "Mayoral family has first spat". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  14. ^ Gerry Shih (January 6, 2011). "Behind-the-Scenes Power Politics: The Making of a Mayor". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  15. ^ "S.F. Mayor Ed Lee gets fat donation, earful from ally Rose Pak". SFGate. January 14, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  16. ^ a b Barmann, Jay (May 23, 2016). "Rose Pak Returns Following Extended Medical Stay In China". SFist. Archived from the original on May 26, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Green, Emily (2017-02-11). "Rose Pak's absence to alter tone of Chinese New Year's Parade - SFChronicle.com". www.sfchronicle.com. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  18. ^ Matier, Phil (August 8, 2016). "Rose Pak Threatens City Hall Blockade Over Stockton Street Proposal". Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  19. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (May 23, 2016). "Rose Pak is back; Feinstein swipes at Airbnb (again)". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  20. ^ Dineen, J. K. (2016-12-17). "Dispute over Rose Pak's remains settled". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  21. ^ Glionna, John M. (April 2, 2008). "S.F. keeping a light on for China? Not exactly". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  22. ^ a b Dorfman, Zach (2018-07-27). "How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  23. ^ Matthew Robertson (August 17, 2011). "San Francisco Mayoral Race Deeply Corrupted, Says Former Legislator". The Epoch Times. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  24. ^ "誰在操縱市長選舉 (Chinese video - Who's controlling the Mayoral Election)". New Tang Dynasty Television. August 16, 2011. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  25. ^ "Protesters Urge SFMTA Not To Name Chinatown Central Subway Station After Rose Pak: SFist". SFist - San Francisco News, Restaurants, Events, & Sports. 2016-10-13. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  26. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (2017-03-15). "SF to plant ginkgo biloba tree in honor of Rose Pak in St. Mary's Park". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  27. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (2017-09-19). "Rose Pak's death, one year later: Community fund launches amid scramble for power". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2019-01-10.