However, I felt your article left readers unclear about my political outlook. That is not unusual, my views are usually too liberal for my Republican friends and too conservative for my Democratic friends. Without dealing with the various examples, I would like the opportunity to clarify two basic misconceptions.
1) I am a resident of San Francisco, I was born here. I live with my elderly mother in the North Beach home where I went to school. It is where I work, vote, donate hundreds of hours of community services annually, and where, as a businesswoman, I operate a pageant that is licensed in San Francisco and held at the Palace of Fine Arts. With the exception of my job, as a part of the emergency care team (among other services I perform) at S.F. General for 20 years, all my activities take place in District 3. I do have a homeowner's exemption in San Jose because that is the only property I own. I plan to live in San Francisco the rest of my life, and more importantly, San Francisco is the place I love. To me, that defines primary residence. I have made inquiries with the Registrar's Office but to the best of my knowledge, I am in compliance with every law.
2) I consider myself a feminist, though not in the derogatory sense that many accept. I do not allow others to define feminism for me. Unlike other feminists, I find no contradiction between organizing beauty pageants and advocating equality for women. This may be a cultural issue. As a young adult, it was a pageant that gave me the opportunity to step out of the sheltered life that often overwhelmed me. The pageant encouraged me to get involved in community life. I en- joy giving that opportunity to others. By attempting to make clear to your reporter that I am not "anti-man" I did not mean that I abandon any of the principles of fairness that I firmly believe women are due, in the workplace, at home, or in the political arena. I have never allowed others to think for me, and I never will.
Candidate, Supervisor, District 3
Thank you for the wonderful piece you printed about the Society for Creative Anachronism ("Past Perfect," Night Crawler, April 5). I've been a member for 27-plus years, since before "Sir Brian," who was one of the finalists in your chronicled tourney, was born, and have seen him grow up in the organization, and recall when the autocrat of your listed event was present in a cradle hand-carved by her father.
It's rare we see such a well-rounded piece that truly captures what we believe are the best parts of the SCA experience.
It was unfair of Bernice Yeung to use the doughnut shop owners as the "poster child" example of abuse by the Code Enforcement Task Force ("Mom & Pop Crackdown," March 29). We support the work of the CETF in our neighborhood. The city attorney has saved us from being victims of drug violence by shutting down crack houses in the Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside area of S.F., and many more of us are alive and well today because of it.
Ms. Yeung states briefly that Sam Kaleh "took over [Norman's Liquors] from his cousin a year and a half ago." Ms. Yeung should have found out that his cousin had an employee arrested for narcotics possession while behind the counter and was also arrested by the SFPD for moving illegal gambling machine components into Norman's Market. This transfer of the liquor license from one relative to another is a common ruse used by liquor store owners to wipe their records clean with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Mr. Kaleh's last line makes me laugh: "It was here when I came and it will be here when I leave." Ha Ha! I'm sure that's true, because when his record becomes poor with ABC, he will transfer the license over to another relative who will make the same declarations about having nothing to do with the problems in front of Norman's Market.
Pass the Ammunition
I hope that everyone who read your March 29 feature article ("Mom & Pop Crackdown") was as outraged as I was by the apparent malicious prosecution of Lin and Roger Chao.
Blaming hard-working, law-aiding business owners for the criminal activities of local miscreants and predators who happen to misbehave near lawful business establishments would be absurdly ridiculous, were it not so unfairly financially damaging to honest entrepreneurs, like the Chaos.
It seems that City Attorney Louise Renne expects business owners to police criminal behavior in the environs of their businesses. If they don't do this, Ms. Renne apparently would like to make these business owners pay substantial penalties to the city.
I suggest that law-abiding business owners, such as the Chaos, apply to the SFPD for a Carry Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit. If the city expects them to defend themselves against neighborhood sociopaths, or pay a hefty fine if they don't, the city should also acknowledge that they have the right to defend themselves against the sort of neighborhood scum who engage in the behaviors Ms. Renne finds so objectionable. Your article indicates that the Mission Station has been unable to police the local problem. If Ms. Renne wants to penalize the Chaos for a failure of the authorities to police the neighborhood, she should support the issuance of CCWs to lawful businesspeople who request them.
Why do I think she may not be very willing to support arming the local business folk? Who knows ... maybe she would agree with me. If she doesn't, you might like to hear her tell you why.
Joel P. Engardio's article "Spiritual Cultivation" (March 15) was a welcome cover story about Bay Area Asian affairs. As a journalist who spent the past four years in China, I praise him for his objective examination of Falun Gong, and its cultlike appearances. While the Chinese Communist Party may be sorely lacking in PR skills and has been, in fact, harassing and persecuting the segment of the population which usually supports it (the middle-aged and retired), Falun Gong isn't as harmless as it seems. Among Falun Gong's teachings is that mixed-race relationships are unacceptable and homosexuality is impure ... to say nothing of the aliens, and Li Hongzhi's claims that he can levitate.
I wrote an article detailing my witnessing of the April protest. To summarize, Falun Gongers (or Falunatics, as dubbed in some quarters) were tolerated by the masses, who generally follow a "live and let live" attitude. The biggest complaint I'd heard about the movement came from husbands who didn't understand why their wives had to buy so many tapes and books to help them cultivate the Buddhas in their navel. "The Bible -- you only need to buy that once," one Beijing cabbie pointed out to me.
If anything, the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in May 1999, and the protests which followed, took the spotlight off of Falun Gong's drive for recognition. The keyword come May was "patriotism," and by summertime, Taiwan's president had stated his land was a nation and state, so up rose the call for even more patriotism on the mainland. This coincided with "Smash Falun Gong" rallies leading off the evening national news come August.
All told, the situation for Falun Gong practitioners in China grows dimmer and dimmer. But China does, in fact, allow religious freedom, at least according to Article 36 of its constitution ("Citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief"). Belief, not practice. In the last couple of years, especially, I saw concrete evidence of this, from displayed pictures of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa temples to new Christian churches in the Manchurian northeast. Article 36 continues, "The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in public activities that disrupt public order."
There's the justification the Communist Party invokes in cracking down on Falun Gong: It disrupts public order. The Romans used the same rationale against Christians, so did Janet Reno against Branch Davidians. So have scores of other governments in between on myriad groups which didn't sit well with the powers that were.
I think the real mystery in all of this is Li Hongzhi's unconscionable silence. He dwells in New York City and is quite likely the wealthiest overseas Chinese in the world. He hasn't clarified his position on whether Falun Gong is merely an exercise regime or a religion, basically leaving his followers to fend for themselves in a nation without a reliable appellate system.
One correction to Engardio's otherwise fine reporting. He states that 10,000 practitioners "massed in Tiananmen Square," but that's not true. They massed instead along the north side of Xi'anmen Avenue, the ribbon of road that skirts the top of the Forbidden City and the Zhongnanhai Leadership compound (China's White House). I was out rollerblading that morning, unaware of the gathering, when I noticed the traffic had been blocked on the street. As Israeli flags hung from all the light posts in honor of a visiting politician, I assumed that the crowd gathered were official "wavers" to show China's love for world peace. Instead, the group, which stretched about half a mile and stood four deep, were the Falun Gong practitioners who came to Zhongnanhai to press upon the leaders that the group should be officially sanctioned to practice.
Second, Engardio writes that the Taiping Rebellion "severely weakened China's last imperial dynasty," and goes on to say that the Boxer Uprising "was a final blow to the Qing Dynasty." Yes, in a manner of speaking. Hong Xiu Quan (who claimed to be a younger brother of Jesus) and his band of rebels succeeded in capturing Nanjing and a slim slice of south-central China, but couldn't hold it together nor develop a coherent government for long. In fact, the Qing, having easily defeated the Taipings in Nanjing, would rule for another 40 years.