San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade, the world's oldest and largest of its kind, is currently involved in a controversy with accusations of discrimination against members of the Bay Area community. On Dec. 20, a group of approximately 30 Falun Gong practitioners gathered in front of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCC) building charging that the CCC acts in the interest of the Chinese communist government and discriminates against the Falun Gong group.
Falun Gong, an ancient Chinese meditation practice, regularly participates in various parades locally and nationally such as the Columbus Day parade in San Francisco and the Hollywood Parade in Los Angeles. In China, where Falun Gong originated, the peaceful practice was outlawed by the Chinese communist government in 1999 because of fear that the fast-growing meditation group would destabilize its grip on power in China.
"Falun Gong is welcomed in parades all across the Bay Area and has received many awards, but in the Chinese New Year Parade, where it belongs most, it has been rejected," said Huy Lu, a local Falun Gong practitioner.
According to Lu, he applied to the CCC for admission into the Chinese New Year Parade on behalf of Falun Gong, but was denied participation. The official reason for the rejection was due to the limited space in the parade and an excess of applicants, according to CCC's chairman Wayne Hu.
Lu contests that Hu's explanation is just an excuse to cover up this act of discrimination. In 2004, Lu also applied for admission into the parade and was accepted until the CCC found out he was a Falun Gong practitioner.
According to Allen Zeng, spokesperson for Falun Gong, a group of local business persons who have close ties to the Chinese communist government has acted in the interest of the Chinese communist government. "The Chinese New Year Parade receives grants from the city government; we cannot tolerate discrimination towards a group that the Chinese communist government suppresses," said Zeng.
San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly joined the protesters. "It seems very much like discrimination based on political reasons especially within the context of the persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese Government," he said. "Rejecting a group based on political reasons is discrimination and discrimination cannot be tolerated in San Francisco."
In 2001, Daly introduced a resolution condemning the Chinese communist government's persecution of Falun Gong to the Board of Supervisors, but due to interference from Rose Pak, a business consultant of the CCC, the resolution failed to pass. According to Zeng, the then Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, personally thanked Pak for blocking the resolution during her visit to China.
"There seems to be a coordinated effort between the Chinese Consulate and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to oppose Falun Gong," said Daly. "San Francisco is a very diverse place, not just with ethnicity, sexual orientation, but also with philosophy. We must have tolerance for different beliefs and embrace diversity. If you tolerate discrimination, it continues." He said he would boycott the Chinese New Year Parade and suggests other Supervisors to follow suit.
The door to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce building was locked during the protest. The Epoch Times was not able to reach any CCC personnel for comments.