Politically, San Francisco is now an outpost of Chinese Communist Party influence on American soil. Once a bastion of pro-Taiwan Chinese anti-communism, San Francisco’s Chinatown has since been hijacked by activists supportive of the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC). Due to this powerful influence, San Francisco is now led by Supervisors (the local name for City Councilors), who have made their peace with the Beijing regime’s local allies.
Part of the blame for this disturbing transition can be placed on the 46-year-old Chinese Progressive Association (CPA). When the CPA was founded in 1972 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, few thought the fledgling pro-PRC organization would survive.
The CPA was founded by cadre from I Wor Kuen (IWK), a New York/San Francisco-based group dedicated to the “application of the science of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Tsetung Thought to the U.S. revolution.” The local anti-communist forces did not take kindly to IWK or the CPA.
According to the document “Statements on the Founding of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), 1978”:
“IWK was also the first organization since the early 1950’s to openly declare its support within the Chinese community for the People’s Republic of China … IWK’s bold stand infuriated the KMT fascist reactionaries and anti-communists. They tried to intimidate the masses by firebombing IWK’s storefront several times, slandering IWK in their Chinese language newspapers and physically assaulting IWK members ….”
IWK persevered and gradually built the CPA into a stable, steadily expanding organization. The CPA actively provided legal help and social services to new Chinese migrants moving into Chinatown and advocated on their behalf to city authorities. Members also began to build a political power base through voter registration drives and providing campaign workers to local politicians.
CPA members were also invited to visit the PRC on numerous occasions, as “an opportunity to visit their ancestors’ homes and to see socialism in action.”
Mergers and Splits
In 1978, IWK merged with Black, Chicano, and white Maoists to form the League of Revolutionary Struggle, which quickly became the largest pro-PRC group in the country. This broadened CPA’s support base and built ties to the local Democratic Party, as the League of Revolutionary Struggle and CPA actively participated in the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.
San Francisco had for many years been heavily influenced by the pro-Soviet Communist Party USA, which controlled the Bay Area’s strongest labor organization, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Many of San Francisco’s local politicians were close to the Communist Party USA including Supervisor and District Attorney Terence Hallinan, a former communist youth leader. Supervisors Kevin Shelley, Sue Bierman, Tom Ammiano, and mayor Willie Brown were openly supportive of Communist Party USA causes well into the 1990s.
In 1990, the League of Revolutionary Struggle split into two factions. A minority faction, the Socialist Organizing Network (SON), stuck to traditional street-level Maoism, while the majority Unity Organizing Committee (UOC) group, which included most of the Chinese IWK cadre, sought to accomplish socialism through the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party USA splintered, with most Bay Area comrades joining the newly formed Committees of Correspondence (CoC).
In 1994, SON joined America’s largest pro-China organization: the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). Over time, some CoC members also joined FRSO, as did some from the UOC. Today, FRSO is by far San Francisco’s leading Marxist organization. It has thoroughly infiltrated the local Democratic Party and many Bay Area “progressive” organizations including the CPA. FRSO incorporates traditional Maoist street protest tactics to pressure the Democratic Party from below while infiltrating secret members into positions of leadership in government. It’s called the “inside-outside strategy.”
FRSO is highly secretive, with most members remaining undercover. Dedicated cross-referencing can help determine which organizations are under FRSO control.
Current CPA board chair Pam Tau Lee helped co-found the organization and was also an IWK member and a UOC supporter. She has been active with several FRSO-aligned groups including Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and Ear to the Ground Project.
On the staff side, CPA’s Senior Movement Building and Alliance Coordinator Lucia Lin is a member of FRSO spin-off group LeftRoots, while CPA’s Finance and Administration Director Michelle Foy is one of the very few open FRSO members.
CPA Executive Director Alex T. Tom is a leader of LeftRoots and has been active in several FRSO front groups.
Almost the entire board and staff of CPA are connected to FRSO in some way.
Throughout CPA’s phases with the IWK, League of Revolutionary Struggle, and now FRSO—through all the PRC’s policy twists and turns—CPA consistently supported the Beijing propaganda line. For instance, on July 8, 2001, CPA hosted a forum in Chinatown to “make the link between U.S. imperialism and racism against Asians in the U.S.”
FRSO spin-off publication FightBack News reported on the forum, stating: “Three Chinese American activists, involved in the Asian American movement from the 1960’s to today, spoke about the spy-plane drama that unfolded with China earlier this year.”
The article quotes Monica Wayie Ly, of Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment:
“Since Bush stole office, there has been an increase in hostility toward the People’s Republic of China and Chinese Americans. The U.S. ruling class sees China as an obstacle to total global domination,” she said.
In the 1960s, the PRC was the main inspiration for Chinese–American radicals. “It was a time to be proud of China’s accomplishments. It helped us to organize,” Patsy Chan, a former member of IWK, said in the article. “Mainstream Asian American organizations oppose racism but won’t make the link to U.S. and corporate policy abroad,” Gordon Mar, a former director of the CPA, former UOC activist, and a long-time FRSO affiliate, is quoted as saying in the article.
The article continues to lament America’s “imperialism”:
“The forum’s message directly countered the belief that Asian Americans need to prove our worth in this country. We’re here because the U.S. was in our homelands. The message our community needs to hear is that as long as U.S. imperialism rules in Asia, Asians living in the U.S. will be denied true equality and continue to face national and racial oppression. Rather than distancing ourselves from Asia, we need to find ways to unite our struggles,” it stated.
In 2007, Chinese labor academic professor Liu Cheng from Shanghai Normal University toured the U.S. supported by several FRSO-linked organizations. The San Francisco leg of the tour was hosted by the CPA’s Alex T. Tom.
In 2012, Alex T. Tom formed the China Education and Exposure Program (CEEP) to “build a deeper analysis of China for US progressives and leftists and to build relationships with the grassroots movement in China.”
According to CEEP activists at the 2014 Left Forum:
“In 2013, a delegation of Chinese American organizers went to China to learn about organizing efforts in Mainland China. The culmination of conversations with more than 10 organizations in China organizing around labor, environmental justice, women’s rights, and queer issues opened up space for us to put forth the following questions: … What is the nature of the anti-capitalist struggle and the social justice movement in China? How have the State and Capitalists responded? And lastly, what role do we play in the US in supporting people’s struggles in China?”
CEEP delegations to the PRC consist mainly of CPA and FRSO-linked activists. In early October 2017, CPA board chair Pam Tau Lee joined “Chinese for Affirmative Action” and the “Asian Americans Advancing Justice” to form the End National Security Scapegoating (ENSS) coalition.
Beijing invests lots of money and effort in diverting the American public’s attention away from the PRC’s massive spy operations in the United States. The CPA is happy to help with this endeavor. One example is the recent revelation that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) employed alleged Chinese spy Russell Lowe as an office director for nearly two decades. Lowe, a close associate of the CPA’s one-time Vice Chair Eric Mar, incidentally continues his activism to this day.
According to an ENSS press release: “The coalition was established in response to pervasive efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice that target and prosecute Chinese American individuals for espionage-related crimes.”
The new organization was not interested in addressing the very real problem of PRC espionage in the U.S. Conversely, it was clearly designed to divert attention away from PRC crimes in the U.S. and to stoke resentment and discord in American immigrant communities.
“Regrettably, this form of discrimination is part of our U.S. history. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Asian Americans have been labeled and profiled as perpetual foreigners and threats to national security. The Muslim Ban, police violence against African Americans, and attacks against immigrants today must be understood in this same vein,” the press release continued.
While defending the PRC on one front, the CPA has been busily building power in city government.
Two CPA leaders, Mabel Teng and Eric Mar, became San Francisco Supervisors, and Mar’s brother Gordon is standing for San Francisco Supervisor in the 2018 election cycle. Both Eric and Gordon Mar have been close to IWK, League of Revolutionary Struggle, and the FRSO over several decades.
Their older brother Warren Mar was a founder member of the CPA and an open member of both IWK and League of Revolutionary Struggle.
The CPA has built alliances with several San Francisco Supervisors over the years. Able to mobilize several hundred door-knockers, phone-bankers, and sign-wavers, the CPA is a force San Francisco’s leftist candidates cannot afford to ignore.
In recent years the CPA has built relations with San Francisco Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Jane Kim, Christina Olague, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Norman Yee.
In October 2017, the CPA celebrated its 45th anniversary with an event entitled “Harnessing the strength of a thousand rivers.” Members of the host committee included several FRSO-affiliated activists and five of the 11 currently serving San Francisco Supervisors—Fewer, Kim, Peskin, Ronen, and Yee.
The CPA has used its Board of Supervisors’ connections and its networks in immigrant communities to foist a multitude of leftist labor, environmental, educational, social, and political policies on long-suffering San Francisco taxpayers.
For example, in 2014, the CPA provided “key leadership” in passing the San Francisco Minimum Wage Ordinance, increasing the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In 2016, CPA leaders contacted over 7,000 Chinese immigrant voters in San Francisco urging them to support key statewide measures including Proposition 55, which would extend the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000 by 12 years (which passed with overwhelming support in California). These same voters also helped to pass Proposition W in San Francisco, which “will fund a Free City College.”
The CPA was also heavily behind Proposition N, a ballot measure to allow illegal immigrants to vote in school board elections.
The CPA has nationwide ambitions. It is part of a nationwide FRSO network referred to as Grassroots Asians Rising, which includes CPA (Boston); New York’s CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities; DRUM — South Asian Organizing Center; Philadelphia’s Asian Americans United; Portland’s Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon; and others dedicated to mobilizing Asian-Pacific voters against President Trump.
“As the fastest growing demographic in the US, AAPIs [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] need to develop a unified strategy around the role of AAPIs in the broader social and economic justice movement on a national level. We will continue to lead AAPIs for Civic Empowerment to advance this strategy and build collective power,” a report by the CPA states, which is echoed on the Grassroots Asians Rising website.
The CPA is an ally of the PRC—dedicated to expanding communist Chinese influence in the United States and moving American politics further to the left. The CPA has already conquered San Francisco. Will it be allowed to spread its influence further across the United States?
Trevor Loudon is an author, filmmaker and public speaker from New Zealand. For more than 30 years, he has researched radical left, Marxist and terrorist movements and their covert influence on mainstream politics.