Gunned-down Chinatown leader feared he'd be killed Businessman intended victim, police say 'This person was intended to be shot'
Allen Leung feared for his life.
The influential leader of two powerful fraternal organizations in San Francisco's Chinatown told federal and local authorities last year that he was afraid he might be harmed as part of an internal feud within one of his groups.
Leung, 56, was gunned down inside his import-export business Monday afternoon. Police do not know whether the people he feared were behind the slaying, but they do know that the attack at 603 Jackson St. was not random.
"This person was intended to be shot -- this was not a robbery. (Leung) offered him money, but he shot him and left," said San Francisco police homicide Lt. John Hennessey of the shooting. The masked assailant fled into a heavy rain.
The slaying at Wonkow Art Centres and Wonkow International Enterprises Inc. reverberated through the tightly knit Chinatown community, where Leung was a mediator who settled personal and political disputes.
Leung was an elder in two historic Chinese fraternal organizations, or tongs -- the Hop Sing Tong and the Chinese Freemason, also known as the Chee Kung Tong. And he was a leader in several other Chinatown groups.
According to court documents, Leung went to the FBI last year after a series of incidents involving Hop Sing. The problems began on December 30, 2004, he told them, when a group of younger members within Hop Sing sought about $100,000.
San Francisco police began looking into Leung's case on Feb. 25, 2005, when a restaurant and four San Francisco tongs -- but not Hop Sing -- were vandalized with red paint.
On March 11, Leung and other Hop Sing leaders met and voted to turn down the request for $100,000, Leung told authorities.
The next day, someone shot up the door of the Hop Sing Tong, police said. Later in March, Hop Sing leaders received a taunting letter referring to the shooting.
Leung told federal agents he feared for his safety in April, documents show.
One of the men Leung said had sought the cash was soon taken into custody on immigration charges. But federal officials were ultimately unable to act further on Leung's fears.
"Leung did talk to the FBI as a complainant," LaRae Quy, spokeswoman for the bureau in San Francisco, said Tuesday. "The FBI found no evidence to corroborate the allegations made by Leung."
Born in Taishan in southern China, Leung immigrated to the Bay Area three decades ago. He attended community college, enrolled in a cooking school, worked in real estate, and built an import-export business, friends and family said Tuesday. He and two brothers founded the martial arts studio White Crane, whose students often perform in community events such as the Chinese New Year Parade.
Leung and his wife, Jenny, have two daughters and a son.
Leung worked his way into the higher echelons of several Chinatown groups. He was one of 62 directors of the Chinese Six Companies, a historic association of Chinatown leaders that is courted by politicians for donations and votes, and he served as board president of the Chinese Central High School and as a director of the Chinese Hospital, a 54-bed clinic in Chinatown.
Pius Lee, a politically connected Chinatown property owner and land developer, hired Leung years ago to work in his real estate office. It was Lee's recommendation that put Leung on the Chinatown Economic Development Group, which was created to give the neighborhood an economic boost after the 1992 Loma Prieta earthquake.
"He tries to make friends with both sides, to make peace. That's why I admire him," Lee said. "He tries to be the middleman, saying, 'Let's talk. Don't fight.' "
Leung recently tried to mediate a financial dispute between current and former board members.
Mark Liao, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, said Leung was a commissioner of overseas affairs, an honorary post, for Taiwan.
Chinatown political leaders have split since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 over their support for either the mainland Chinese government or the government in exile on Taiwan.
Leung's shop sits at the edge of Chinatown, where Jackson Street slopes down into the Financial District. Though its worn awning advertised an art gallery and custom framing, it was a wholesale import-export business.
Next door at Star Lunch, a small eatery, cook Rory Chen said Tuesday that he heard a loud noise bursting out from the rear Monday afternoon. He did not know it was gunfire until police showed up, Chen said. Leung often stopped by to eat.
"He was a good man," Chen said in Chinese.
Chinatown leaders are concerned about a possible resurgence of the violence they saw in the 1970s. In 1977 at the Golden Dragon restaurant on Washington Street, five bystanders were killed and 11 injured.
The cycle of violence extends back to the tong wars of the 1920s.
"This takes Chinatown back to a long time ago," said James Chung, a San Francisco insurance agent and Chinatown leader aligned with Taiwan. "This is not a society we want in the United States, a modern and democratic country. We shouldn't have the old traditional way to solve these problems. I wish we can stop these kinds of things and go back to law and order."
Leung, as head of the Chinese Freemasons, was involved tangentially in a dispute within that organization that ended with a defamation lawsuit filed in 2002.
A New York leader of the group, Pang Woon Ng, sued, saying he was defamed when officials at the San Francisco branch of the organization said Ng had broken the group's operating rules. Leung, who was not a leader of the group at that time, later took over the local organization.
He was involved in the legal battle only in authorizing continued payments to attorneys to combat the suit, said Paul Winick, a New York attorney handling the case for the Freemasons.