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Chinese Media Sad and Concerned Over Supervisor’s Arrest

New America Media, News Analysis, Eugenia Chien Posted: Jun 13, 2007

Editor’s Note: The recent arrest of Ed Jew, the only San Francisco Asian American supervisor, disappointed local Chinese-language media who wonder about the fate of Chinese American politics, reports NAM writer Eugenia Chien. Chien monitors Chinese-language media for New America Media.

SAN FRANCISCO – The Chinese-language media is expressing sadness and concern about the impact on Chinese-American political participation as city supervisor Ed Jew faces criminal charges of electoral fraud.

Jew, San Francisco’s only Chinese-American supervisor, turned himself in to authorities on June 12 after the San Francisco chief prosecutor issued a warrant for his arrest. He was released after he posted a $135,000 bail. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said in a written statement that Jew had lied about where he lived when he filed candidacy to represent the predominantly Asian Sunset district.

Jew has also been facing a federal investigation for allegedly accepting $40,000 in cash from Quickly, a tapioca tea chain, to help with city permit issues. Quickly employees told the media that Jew approached them first, and that the cash was from an FBI sting operation. The FBI searched Jew’s properties in Burlingame and the Sunset District as well as his Chinatown flower shop last month.

Jew’s story has shaken the Chinese-American community. “The charges against him are unquestionably a blow to Ed Jew and to the entire Chinese-American community,” according to a column that appears in Sing Tao Daily today by Editor-in-Chief Joseph Leung.

Leung reminds readers that, “according to American law, one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.” However, because Ed Jew is the first Chinese-American elected official in San Francisco to face criminal charges, Leung calls this development “disappointing” and “saddening.”

The investigation surrounding Ed Jew has dominated the headlines of Chinese-language media in the Bay Area. In today's Ming Pao Daily, the headline reads, "Ed Jew Lambastes City Attorney for Lack of Professionalism." The Chinese-language World Journal also ran five stories today on Ed Jew's charges, including columns that question Jew’s integrity and the future of Chinese-American politicians.

More than a third of San Francisco’s population is Asian American; at least 20 percent of San Franciscans are Chinese American. Chinese-American residents in the Sunset district told the Sing Tao Daily that they were shocked to find out the criminal charges against Jew, though Jew’s neighbors told the San Francisco Chronicle that Jew’s house had been vacant for several years.

The scandal surrounding Jew will have a “significant, negative impact” on Chinese-American participation in politics, Harrison Lim, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, told the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal. “When something happens to one person, it not only impacts him but also his family, and the image of the whole Chinese-American society,” he said. In light of the charges, he said, he is still supportive of Jew’s family and will withhold judgment until Jew is tried in court.

Lim criticized mainstream media for targeting Chinese-American politicians, “but these politicians have also done things that let people down,” he told the World Journal.

A resident of 41st Avenue in the Sunset District who identified himself as Mr. Chen told the Sing Tao that if Jew proves to be guilty, it would discourage Chinese voters’ confidence in elections. A restaurant owner on Sunset district’s Irving Street who identified herself as Mrs. Lee was quoted as saying, “I don’t understand why it took over half a year for the city government to bring up the question of residency. Why didn’t the city verify a candidate’s residency from the beginning?”

Much like he did during his campaign for supervisor, Jew has reached out to the Chinese community. But whether the community will stand behind him in light of the criminal charges remains to be seen. The Ming Pao Daily reported today that before charges were filed against Jew, he met with several Chinatown leaders to ask for support. Several Chinese-American organizations had also planned to hold a press conference supporting him, reports the Sing Tao Daily.

Jew has also reached out to journalists. Upon his return from a planned trip to China in early June, he invited only Chinese-language media to his house in the Sunset district. Many journalists said it was the first time they recall Jew ever holding a press conference in his house.

The World Journal reported that Jew's house was "sparsely" furnished, with very little furniture and a photo of his family on the mantel. The Chinese-language television station, KTSF Channel 26, aired videos of the interior of Jew's house in the Sunset, where Jew refused to answer questions from the Chinese media about the federal investigation or his residency.

“It is a gesture on his part to show that he lives there and that he wants to fight back,” said Likcon Lam, editor-in-chief of the Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily.

But any perception that the Chinese-language media is friendlier to Jew is false, said Sing Tao Daily’s Editor-in-Chief Joseph Leung. “We are not protecting him.”

Jew faces nine felony charges from the San Francisco district attorney’s office, including four counts of perjury, one count of filing a false document and four counts of election code violation. He may be removed from his office if found guilty. He has not been charged with a crime by federal authorities.

With the political future of the city’s only Chinese-American supervisor in question, the Chinese media emphasize that political participation is more important than ever.

“Political participation is the only way that the Chinese-American community can integrate into mainstream society and guarantee the rights of Chinese Americans,” Leung writes in his column.

Unfortunately, Chinese-American elected officials in the Bay Area have disappointed the community on many levels, he notes. “The only way to change this situation is to encourage even more Chinese-Americans to participate in politics to give the community more choices.”

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