Prominent Chinese-American leaders have distanced themselves and their community from the fallout of the legal scandal involving state Sen. Leland Yee.
The statements came Tuesday in a strongly worded open letter, which for many who signed the letter was their first public comment on the case.
“With the revelations of the corruption indictment of Senator Leland Yee, the past several weeks have been a shocking, troubling period for the people of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. It’s been especially alarming for Chinese Americans, as the inevitable fallout has brought intense scrutiny on our community and, from some quarters, misguided doubts about the integrity of Chinese American leadership as a whole,” began the letter, which was signed by political powerbroker Rose Pak, the president of the Planning Commission and many others.
“After years of toil and effort, and hard fought gains, to become full participants in our local politics, we cannot let the alleged corruption of a few set back the progress of the great many,” the letter went on to say.
None of the numerous Chinese-American elected officials in The City signed the letter, because its intent was to represent the voice of the Chinatown community, according to one of the signers, Cindy Wu of the Planning Commission.
The tenor of the letter was defensive regarding how the media have covered the Chinese community and its links to the scandal, and it was aimed at dispelling myths.
“There is nothing about the Chinese American political community, or its ‘culture,’ that is under indictment, only the shocking allegations against a few,” the letter said. At one point, the letter notes that political scandals about white or Latino politicians do not implicate their communities to the same degree.
“Now Leland Yee will have his day in court to defend himself; we as a community have nothing to defend,” ended the letter.
Malcolm Yeung, deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, said that while the letter has the signatures of some prominent Chinatown leaders, its aim is to dispel the idea that any individuals “represent” the Chinese community here.
Therefore, the letter itself “doesn’t mean that Rose Pak or any of those people in any way, shape or form monolithically represent the community,” he said.
Yee, notorious Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson are among dozens of defendants in a federal case alleging political corruption and criminal charges ranging from murder-for-hire and drug sales to international gun-trafficking conspiracy.
The March arrests and subsequent charges stemmed from an undercover FBI infiltration of Chow’s group, according to a federal affidavit. With the aid of Chow, who remains in custody, and others, agents uncovered racketeering activity during a roughly five-year investigation, according to the affidavit.
Chow, Yee and Jackson have all pleaded not guilty.