One of the two campaigns to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is being accused of using “racist” and “anti-Chinese” campaign materials to criticize the progressive prosecutor with communist-style propaganda.
Nonprofit and civil rights leaders joined multiple retired Chinese American elected officials Thursday in Chinatown to condemn a poster depicting Boudin in a Cold War-era propaganda image, with the DA gesturing in a manner similar to a Mao Zedong poster from the 1970s. The poster also includes images of homeless encampments, a person appearing to consume drugs and a figure slumped over with their pants down.
“The recall campaign has exploited the use of a Chinese historical jacket to deceive San Francisco voters,” said Henry Der, a former state deputy superintendent of public instruction and longtime head of the Chinatown-based civil rights organization Chinese for Affirmative Action.
Der, who also spoke at Boudin’s anti-recall rally last weekend, accused the recall organizers of “race-baiting” to achieve their goal of removing Boudin from office.
The image, which was posted online, was created by the Recall Chesa Boudin campaign. The group failed to gather enough signatures to put the recall onto the ballot last year, but another recall campaign, Safer SF Without Boudin, successfully submitted more than 83,000 signatures to qualify for a recall election this June.
Richie Greenberg, a former Republican Party activist who is leading the Recall Chesa Boudin campaign, doubled down Thursday in a statement blasting the DA.
“We have to talk about Chesa's communist, socialist roots,” Greenberg said in a statement, pointing to Boudin’s work for Hugo Chavez, the late President of Venezuela and leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. “The vast majority of the Asian community opposes Maoist ideas and find Chesa offensive, views captured well by this poster.”
Boudin is a registered Democrat and the county’s Democratic Party voted overwhelmingly to oppose the recall.
Greenberg called the officials who attended Thursday’s press conference—including former supervisors Sandra Fewer, Norman Yee, and Mabel Teng, as well as retired judge Julie Tang—a group of “far-left progressive extremists” who are “the reason San Francisco is in such dire shape.”
Supervisor Connie Chan, a Chinese immigrant, was attacked with a similar poster in 2020 that depicted her in a communist-style poster with Fewer.
Julie Edwards, Boudin’s campaign spokesperson, said the district attorney and his supporters were "appalled by these racist, anti-Asian posters." They also demanded an apology.
“Sadly, this comes as no surprise from a campaign that has made bullying and harassment key components of their strategy,” Edwards said.
The Safer SF Without Boudin campaign distanced itself from Greenberg in a statement to The Standard.
"Our campaign has no affiliation whatsoever with these misguided and harmful posters depicting District Attorney Boudin," said Mary Jung, the chair of the campaign. "We call on whomever created and distributed these posters to stop immediately and to take them down from anywhere they may be in the public."
Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco and a former police commissioner, said the communist-style propaganda should be considered anti-Chinese if its purpose is to make a person look bad.
“The image was used for the purpose of stoking anti-Chinese sentiment,” Hing said. "If that’s the purpose, it’s racist."
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org